Article on Cathy Freeman's defeat

From Sydney’s Daily Telegraph

Cathy’s time to reflect on Athens

The mirror Cathy Freeman looked into at Homebush on Saturday told her what
she needed to know about her ranking on the track these days.

You’re as good as your last race and the Olympic 400m champion ran 51.81sec
in the Telstra A-series and lost by 10m to the rampaging Commonwealth 400m
hurdles champion Jana Pittman who won in 50.43sec.

Nothing will ever detract from what Freeman has achieved, but her bubble has
been burst and, for her own sake, none too soon.

Freeman has plenty of time and the goodwill and support of everyone in the
sport, including Pittman and her coach Phil King, to get her track act back
together in time to do something significant again at the Olympics in Athens
next year.

It depends on whether she really is still as hungry as she keeps saying she
is to win again and to make all the sacrifices again.

But as her own coach Peter Fortune lamented last week she’s had a fair bit
of time off for one reason or another and ``you can’t just wave a magic
wand’’ to restore the fitness which has ebbed away since she ran 49.11sec to
win Olympic gold at Homebush on September 25, 2000.

As for the Paris world championships in August this year Freeman is now
definitely on the team with her B-qualifying time on the weekend, but
50.71sec was the slowest into the 400m final at the last world championships
two years ago.

Freeman is capable of bridging that substantial gap which would justify her
Paris campaign. If she does, then look out Athens.

The metaphorical mirror reflected Pittman’s status as Australia’s top
athlete but, as it revealed Freeman’s flaws, so did it expose Pittman’s.

Based on all the technical models extrapolated from her hurdles times and
her sprint training sets Pittman ran to the fastest extremity of the
theoretical predictions.

The fact she actually broke her national 300m record with a 36.30sec split
in transit to beating Freeman indicates this was a true test of her

The issue for Pittman is the concept of strength-through-speed: unless she
can reduce her 200m best from 23.5sec her improvement over 400m will be

And that would have implications limiting her ability to improve over 400m

She may find 0.2sec in the last 100m on the already excellent 14.06sec she
ran against Freeman, but that suggests any significant improvement over the
hurdles will necessarily come from technical efficiencies in clearing the 10
barriers and in her stride pattern.

These matters alone will not be sufficient for her to challenge the world
hurdles record.

For Freeman, her 300m split time of 36.73sec was still fast enough for her
to break 50sec for 400m if she could summon her old home straight finish. In
her 49.11sec Olympic gold medal run _ the last time she competed in Sydney _
Freeman ran 36.14sec at 300m.

But then she split 12.97sec for the final 100m. Against Pittman, her last
100m of 15.08sec showed her exactly what she has lost.

A Response on Oztrack forum about Mike Hursts article. Somebody want to explain it to me

Mike Hurst has raised some interesting issues relating to the future
potential improvement in 400M times for cathy Freeman and Jana Pittman and
Pittman over 400M hurdles.

Here are some comparative stats I found interesting. The 400M preservation
time is the actual 400M time - 2 times the seasonal best 200M time.
Differential is the difference between 400 M flat and hurdles times. Just
for fun I’ve used a few male times. Sanchez ran his flat and hurdles on the
same day. How many of our 400M men could run two fast races on the one day?


FREEMAN 1992 23.25 51.14 4.64
1993 22.37 51.34 6.6
1994 22.35 50.04 5.34
1995 22.5 50.21 5.21
1996 22.89 48.63 2.85
1997 49.39 49.39
1998 22.55 50.02 4.92
1999 22.82 49.67 4.03
2000 22.53 49.11 4.05
2002 23.64 52.59 5.31

PITTMAN 1999 23.6 51.8 4.6 56.23 4.43
2000 51.76 55.2 3.44
2001 24.01 51.74 55.93 4.19
2002 52.19 54.14 1.95
2003 50.43 53.76 3.33

POETSCHKA 1995 23.06
50.19 4.07

HOLLAND 1988 22.83 50.24 4.58

FLINTOFF-KING 1986 50.78 53.17 2.39

BATMAN 2003 20.84 45.02 3.34

HAZEL 2003 21.91 47.58 3.76 50.47 2.89

SANCHEZ 2002 20.87 45.25 3.51 47.62 2.37

  1. Freeman’s best 200M is 22.25 in 1992. The year she ran her pb 48.63 her
    best 200 was only 22.89. (Excellent preservation time of 2.85 secs - not
    approached since). Her average preservation time is 4.7 secs.

  2. Pittman rarely runs 200M - in some years there are no rankings for her.
    Her main goal is the 400 hurdles. She’s not even contesting the flat race
    in Brisbane. taking Freeman’s 4.7 avaerage preservation time of 4.7,
    Pittman would be capable of 22.85.

  3. Freeman has never threatened the world 400M record. The records of
    Koch, batten and young are old now but when will they be broken? Pittman is
    0.66 behind last year’s world leading hurdles time. That’s the most
    important gap to focus on for this year’s world titles.

  4. Debbie Flintoff-King won Olympic gold in 53.17. Her 200M pb was around
    24 secs and her 400M pb was slower than Pittman’s. BUT - her differential
    was 2.39 - better than Sanchez. Wait a minute, doesn’t Phil King now coach
    Pittman? Does Jana’s 2002 differential of 1.95 secs reflect anything other
    than limited 400 flat racing?

Hmm. Pittman is taller and aiming to run 14s but her hurdling is worse.

Should she work on her 200 speed (she’s just under 12 for 100M), speed
endurance, 14 strides or all three?

Mike, $5 on Jana to beat 53 for the hurdles this year - Oh and a flying
relay leg of low 49.

Now if only Hazel could run a 21.2 200!

Reading Mike Hurst’s article about Freeman and Pittman helps confirm that some individuals are indeed competent in regard to their observations.

Hurst is correct to suggest that Freeman needs to commit herself to getting back into competitive medal winning form for the 2003 WC in Paris. 51.81 is indeed a reasonable run, but it is nowhere near her 48.6 set in 1996. It is also a long way from the 49.0 that will probably win this year’s WC.

Hurst is also correct to suggest that Pittman will have to reduce her 200m speed to below 23.5sec to improve her 400m (50.34). After all, speed is always the key to most running events.

Nevertheless, her conversion rate in relation to 200/400 is 2.14 (23.5 times 2.14 = 50.3). This figure is calculated simply by 50.34 how many 23.5)

This suggests a level of fitness much greater than many other experienced 400m runners, or does it?.

For example Marita Koch 21.71, 47.60 =2.19

Michael Johnson 19.32/43.19= 2.23.
1997- 19.79 43.39=2.19

Myself (just joking) 22.5h-22.8h into headwind/50.4h (90kg?)= 2.24

Freeman 22.35/48.63=2.17
1996- 22.89 48.63=2.12
2000- 22.53 49.11=2.17
2000 probably a good year to compare given that Freeman also made the 200m OG final.
2002- 23.64 51.81=2.19

Darren Clark 20.44?/44.4=2.17

Poetschka 1995 23.06 50.19=2.176

Holland 1988 22.83 50.24=2.20

Batman 2003 20.84 45.02=2.16

Hazel 2003 21.91 47.58=2.171

Sanchez 2002 20.87 45.25=2.168

A friend that has run 200/400 for 15 yrears. 22.73/49.29=2.168

This suggests that Pittman’s 200m time is not a true reflection of her speed or speed endurance. This is probably explained by Pittman not being fresh for her 200m run. Typical of many 400m runners, 200m performances are often run merely as part of a period of training.
Even Butch Reynolds only had a PB of around 20.4. 20.4/43.29=2.12

Nevertheless, for those 200/400m specialists, although rare, a conversion rate of 2.17 appears pretty optimal. However, 200m times need to be honest and be adjusted to allow for wind readings. For those 400m specialists, a 200m trial should only occur when the athlete is fresh to get a true indication of one’s potential.

For Freeman (2002- 23.64 51.81=2.19), this suggests that her fitness is reasonable and that her improvement will mostly come from speed.

After all 22.5 times 2.19=49.27.
2.17 times 22.5=48.82

However, getting fit is a lot easier than getting your power and speed back. Good luck Cathy, although (given her track record) she will probably do it.

Just a little correction about Cathy Freeman, her PB is 22.25 in 1994, when she focused on 200m training. Since then, she is a 400m runner, and in 1996, she ran 22.55 in Zürich, few days after Atlanta OG, where she ran 48.63 and 22.74 (in quarter-final). In the same comp, Pérec ran 48.25 and 22.07. During the 400m final, Pérec passed at the 200m point in 23.25 and Freeman 23.47. That’s interesting that Pérec had a more conservative pace, and Freeman made a mistake in the last bend to catch Pérec, with an incredible 11.60 effort. Then, Pérec left easely a tired Freeman in the straight.

If we compare their 400m times with their 200m estimated time for the period they ran this 400 time) and 200m split time, we have:
Koch 47.6 - 21.7 / 22.4
Kratochvílová 48.0 - 22.3 / 23.1
Pérec 48.2 - 22.0 / 23.2
Bryzgina 48.2 - 22.4 / 23.0
Kocembová 48.5 - 22.5 / 23.5
Freeman 48.6 - 22.5 / 23.4
Brisco-Hooks 48.8 - 21.8 / 23.5

It is not always possible to compare 200m and 400m performances directly on an annual basis, as conditions may vary greatly (the 200m can be affected directly by winds from two different directions. Also, the best 200m runs may be in practice due to timing and circumstance. For example, I was told by Wolfgang Meyert Marita Koch’s fastest ever 200m came in training before her World Record at the World Cup in 1985 (21.56e).

In Canberra, Koch ran the 200m before the 400, it was on lane 1, the wind was blowing at -0.7m/s in the straight, and she ran unnoposed. Yet she clocked 21.90, so 21.56 in training in more favourable conditions is possible.

I my short list, i wrote 21.7 for her level, it was only an estimation from this race. As you said, very difficult to compare, and there was a lot of wind during her 47.60 WR in the opposite straight, and the effects of this wind on her race are nearly impossible to evaluate. We don’t know either what was the wind during the 21.56 trial, however, Koch was a marvelous bender, and as for her speed endurance for the straight in October 1985, we can say that she was at her best level!

I agree with Charlie Francis. 200m times are constantly affected by both negative and positive winds. Hence, it is difficult to truly evaluate a correlation between 200m and 400m times.

Training for the 400m is quite specific, although speed is the most important component. Hence, for most 400m specialists, there is often very little effort made in peaking for a 200m performance within one’s training program.

For instance, in 1994-95, I trained for the 400m 2-3 times a week depending on my recovery (4 months). All I did was 5 times 200-300m at around 85% speed with about 3 minutes rest. After 30 minutes on the ground recovering from the lactic acid buildup, I would hop every second step at a stadium as fast as possible with each step about 1 metre apart (over 20 steps). I did this for 5 repetitions on each leg with a walk down recovery. All up, my actual workout lasted 30 minutes.

As a result, my 400m went from 51.8 to 50.4 and, though not training for the 200m specifically, my best 200m went from 23.2 with a 2 metre tailwind to 22.8 into a 2 metre headwind.

Originally posted by pierrejean
In Canberra, Koch …and there was a lot of wind during her 47.60 WR in the opposite straight, and the effects of this wind on her race are nearly impossible to evaluate. !

I was in the stadium working at the 1985 World Cup and took particular note of the wind conditions during Koch’s 400m race.

She had a strong tailwind for the first 200m and, as she started the final 200m the flags on the backstraight suddenly switched direction to provide Marita with an equally strong tailwind all the way to the finish line. My guess is the wind was about 2m/sec.

These were the rare perfect wind conditions for the 400m.

Athletics people familiar with Canberra, and particularly those of us ancient enough to remember when athletics was conducted in that stadium (before football took over) will remember many occasions when the wind was equally tricky, but rarely quite so helpful.

I remember seeing LA long jump silver medallist Gary Honey standing halfway along the home straight jumping runway, back-to-back with a pole vaulter waiting to run toward the pit at the opposite end of the strip.
They were both waiting for a tailwind. They both got their tailwind at almost the same instant and both jumped well. Both did register a tailwind! That was Canberra, very flukey.

Just as an aside, I spoke very briefly with Koch as she headed to post-event control and asked her in my pathetic German “has du schmertz” and pointed to her backside? She was wide-eyed in surprise (perhaps at the temerity of my gesture) and joy and replied : “Nine, kiner”. (No. Nothing).

So she also obviously ran her ultimate race, although she said later she had actually selected a time of 47.11 “because of the perfume” of the same name popular in those days.

By the way, does anyone know if Marita’s husband, Wolfgang Meier, has recovered from his bewildering experience coaching Perec and whether he is currently coaching anyone we should be paying attention to?


Welll, I read 2 years ago that Meier was coaching a team of East German girls with the aim to getting one of his athletes in every women’s sprint final in Athens.
He had set up a website but it’s since been taken off the web. All the girls bar one he caoched (he had a team of about 5 or 6) were due to be around 20 in 2o04, so they were very young. I remember one of the names was Evelyn Huber (or Hubner) but not the others.

It’s strange, Meier is a superb coach, and always predicts well. In 1985 he predicted Koch would run between 47.55 and 47.65 in Canberra, and she ran 47.60.
He predicted Perec would run 48.8 in Sydney… but she ran out on him.
The fact that he set up a website with the names of his athletes to watch I saw as very significant, but it all seems to have gone underground now. Either that or they’ve all left him and his notoriously hard training sessions!