European Conference on Sprints & Hurdles - London

Hi Guys, did anyone attend ? any observations ?

I know a few coaches that went/participated…i’ll try and pin one of them down to tell me what he got from it and any finer details. I heard Ralph Mann gave a very good presentation.

Yeah Id love to hear what they say. Hopefully it wont turn out like the canadian track conference.

I bet the standard was higher in London.

Day one started with a presentation by Ralph Mann about sprint biomechanics. He showed the same graphics he published back in the early '80s. There was not much debate after his presentation since as those findings were scientific results, we had to take them for granted. However, back home, i compared the '80s slides with the 2010 presentation and found some interesting differences. For example, concerning the lower leg motion (swing leg) during sprinting. In 1985, Mann wrote: "The superior performer minimizes the lower leg angle during both recovery (smaller angle) and as the ankle passes the opposite leg (smaller angle) to make the task of recovering the leg both faster and easier. In 2010 it turn out to be: “To control the lower leg, the better elite sprinters do not allow the lower leg to go into maximum flexion during the initial portion of the recovery process. In addition, the proficient sprinter insures that full flexion position is reached as close to the ankle cross position as possible.” The graphs indeed showed contradictory findings.

The morning session ended with Dan Pfaff’s story about Donovan Bailey. In contrast, it was a humble and practical presentation, dealing with the incertitudes of coaching.

After the lunch, Malcolm Arnold shared his experience about coaching in Uganda in the late '60s-early '70s. While Olympic Champ and Record holder John Akii-Bua came out of this program, nothing was said regarding his training and was very general about his coaching approach. If that might have been deceiving for some of the attendance, i found that it was one of the best presentation of the week-end. He gave precise advices concerning relationship with the athletes, bureaucracy, media, etc, all things that i have faced since i started to coach in the elite environment.

Henk Kraaijenhof followed, and made various comparisons with Nelli Cooman and Merlene Ottey. The debth of knowledge here was fascinating and motivating.

Dan Pfaff came back in the last part of the afternoon for a video analysis session. It was about Carl Lewis’s start mechanics. Even though he was Tellez assistant in the early '80s, the video was probably a decade later since Mike Marsh was in there. I would have prefered a speach about an athlete he coached like Surin or Thompson, but Dan’s comments were very enlighting and practical.

Before the Gala Dinner, there was two groups of discussions in two rooms. I was late and rushed into Malcom Arnold’s one, it was boring as the talk was about the raising of hurdle’s height for women, a topic that has been on the table for decades. I should have opened the other door where Ron Roddan (Linford Christie’s coach) was speaking.

During the dinner, Tom McNab made an intervention of history of coaching, which was full of inaccuracy (the coach in ancient Greece was actually a masseur who was an expert in running, wrestling and diet within an educational program with the aim to make men’s body beautiful and strong, and the goal was not to win the Olympics which training was limited for 30 days!) and omission (appart ancient Greece and a mention of coach Cromwell, it was all about Great Britain) but very entertaining.

Sunday’s morning session started with Ralph Mann, regarding hurdles this time. Same comments as yesterday. It was irritating to hear from Mann that Americans lost the Olympic only three times (it was 7 actually - 1920, 1928 1976, 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008, not counting 1980 boycott) only because of technical mistakes over the barrier. And explaining during David Oliver’s video analysis that the minor shortcoming seen might be due to the strong head wind during the race where he just missed the world record (actually the wind was +1.7 during that 12.93 race at Nationals this year).

Dan Pfaff and therapist Gerry Ramigoda gave an exceptional speach about commin mechanical faults and resulting injury chains, giving theorical and practical data on muscles tendon, fascial chains and their biomechanical interplay.

The afternoon session opened on three too short but very informative presentations concerning 400m by Kevin Tyler (Tyler Christopher), Tony Lester (Nicola Sanders) and Lloyd Cowan (Christine Ohuruogu).

Henk ended the day with aging factor and sprint training with example of Troy Douglas, but unfortunately i missed that one as i had to sprint to the airport.

Swedish coach Benke Blomkvist spoke about hurdles and example with Kallur sisters, but this was during the sprint sessions so i can’t comment on the hurdle sessions.

Overall very well organised, they really did a good job, and as Kevin told me, you can quickly run out of presentators doing such high quality conference every year.

Great stuff PJ…far more info than I would have got!

PJ - Was Ralph Mann selling copies of his Sprint Mechanics manual? I picked up a copy from a USATF conference in 2008 in Las Vegas that included new data on block starts. Just wanted to see if there were any updates.

I videotaped that presentation. I just have to find it.

So which is it with the lower leg?

Regarding Mann and block starts, I heard he is now recommending a set position, foot placement on the blocks, etc very similar to Asafa Powells set position.

Yes, he was selling a 2010 version, published by UKA, though i don’t know what would be the difference with the former version.

Regarding the lower leg: Japanese studies which include analysis during WC’07 shows that the fastest sprinters have a bigger angle (same as 2010 Mann finding). Why Mann changed his mind?

Regarding block starts, can you expland mor on what has changed regarding block position? The section of the 1985 book i have only deals with max velocity phase.

I was told this from someone who took notes at his seminar in 2008. I don’t have any of his books.

That he is recommending feet high up on blocks (like Asafa does) for greater stretch reflex and for front pedal to be roughly 45 deg and rear pedal higher, also like Asafa.

So the foot is not getting as close to the glute these days?

What do you think is the reason behind that?

He didn’t talk about foot placement on the blocks and i find nothing in the book on that topic. I guess 99% use about 45° for front block and higher for rear block, this is not specific to Asafa. As for feet high up on blocks, well i’m not sure it is for greater stretch reflex as Asafa uses the same placement wether the block pads are short or very long (like it was in golden leagues). I guess it has more to do with the drag foot he uses before the landing of the first step out of the blocks.

Or Maybe Mann has changed his methodology or he has more top sprinters in his database?

Any impact on program design as a result of attending this seminar?

Yes the notes say he was just pointing out what he felt was the best method. I was noting the Asafa connections to some of it.
Maybe. I think the toe drag is a consequence of a long an full extension from the blocks. I was also thinking him being so high on the blocks gives a lower departure angle.

He perches the arch of his rear foot up high on the blocks as does Nesta Carter. I have tried that and like the way it feels better than having my foot lower down omn the pedals.

PJ, Did you attend Kevin Tyler’s talk? I’m curious what he had to say. If I’m not mistaken Tyler was coached by Charlie in the late 80’s?
He is certainly getting results. From what I’ve seen of his program, he is doing S-L with his 200 and 400m runners.

double post

I was there as well actually, I just quickly kicked off the thread, still putting my written notes into order so will contribute soon. If I had known you were there as well PJ I would have introduced myself. Regarding Tyler’s talk he was advocating S-L unlike the UK coaches. I will be more in depth next time I post.

:smiley: There was about 10 forum members out there + the ones i don’t know!

Indeed Kevin used S to L, the reasoning behind is that in Vancouver it’s very cold outside and the only facilities they had was a 100m hall (no question to use the small and tight indoor curve) and that the main priority is to develop a speed reserve.

He was in Edmonton where they have an indoor 200m flat track (no bank) with about 100m from wall to wall to run 60 to 80m. If they did any running around the oval, it was very easy on the corners with higher speed runs on the straightaways (for Special Endurance work).

When Kevin did coach in Vancouver (not nearly as cold but still rainy and cool in the winter), he was implementing speed work over 30-40m in hallways (much like I have done in the past). The Edmonton circumstances were much better than the Vancouveri situation, but definitely far from idea.