Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and
Reports

Six Olympic 110 Hurdles Champions Talking (January 2012)

Intro
    My' Very Good'  friend  Peter Hildreth who died in 2011, would point to someone 'Great' who did not quite achieve an Olympic 'Gold' by the name of Donald Finlay (GB) as his hero, the ' Wartime Fighter' Pilot who came second to Forrest Towns (USA 14.2) in the 1936 Olympics at Berlin in 14.4 and, also was a European & Commonwealth gold medallist. Peter equalled Finlay's British record of 14.3.
 I have a picture in a German magazine of 1952 showing Peter Hidlreth, going over a hurdle next to Harrison Dillard in the 1952 Olympic Semi-final.Dillard won the final and had been the 1948 100m Champion too. Peter considered Dillard had a great advantage over him with his strength, which Peter felt put him fairly well behind at the finish.
   Renaldo 'Skeets' Nehemiah is considered one of the greatest hurdlers of all time but at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow America boycotted the Games so, he was not present BUT if one considers, when my interview appeared with  him in Athletics Weekly on the 18th of October of that year that, the previous year, he beat the two athletes who were one and two in the 1980 Olympic Final. (That was when he won the 1979 World Cup from Thomas Munkelt of the USSR in Montreal) and in 1981 became the first man to officially run a World record under 13.00 seconds in Zurich. His time 12.93.(Greg Foster was 2nd in that in 13.03).
   I am going to give you parts of six interviews I did with Olympic gold medallists at the high hurdles but in the case of Frenchman, Guy Drut, I only talked to him about the race when he came second to Rod Milburn (1972) because, my interview was in 1973 when he won he European Cup Final in Edinburgh, several years before Guy won the gold medal in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and then went on to be a Minister in the French Government.


WILLIE DAVENPORT
(Born Troy Alabama 18th of June 1943)

Mexico City, 17th of October 1968


1 Willie Davenport (USA) 13.33 (Olympic Record); 21 Ervin Hall (USA) 13.42; 3 Eddy Ottoz (Italy) 13.46; 4 Leon Coleman (USA) 13.67; 5 Werner Trzmiel (FRG) 13.68; 6 Bo Forssander (Swe) 13.73; 7 Marcel Duriez (FRA) 13.77; 8 Pierre Schoebel (FRA) 14.02.
   Willie Davenport " My heat went very bad, my semi final was slow and before the final I did not feel as though I could do it. It all happened during the race"
   His comments about the other hurdlers that he thought were special.
   " When I got really interested in the event it was Lee Calhoun that I studied and read about all the time, then along came Hayes Jones so  just took it from there' (Lee Calhoun of the USA won the 1956 and 1960 Olympic 110 hurdles and Hayes Jones of the USA won in 1964 in Tokyo)
  Willie continued as we talked at a Lancaster Gate Hotel " Lee Calhoun had a beautiful form and he had speed to go with it, and a lean at the finish..a fantastic lean. Hayes Jones had that blistering start which one had to learn to put up with."
   How did it all start for Willie Davenport " I was at Howland High School in Ohio, 17 a that time, when one day my coach asked me to run the hurdles because our regular hurdler was sick. Until then I used to run the 100 yards."

ROD MILBURN
(Born Opelousas Louisiana 18th of May 1950)

Munich 7th of September, 1972


1 Rod Milburn (USA) 13.24 World Record; 2 Guy Drut (FRA) 13.34; 3 Thomas Hill (USA) 13.48; 4 Willie Davenport (USA) 13.50; 5 Frank Siebeck (GDR) 13.71; 6 Lezek Wodzynski (POL) 13.72; 7 Lubomir Nadenicek (TCH) 13.76; 8 Petr Cech (TCH) 13.86.)
   " When I got in the blocks in the final, I can remember it was a  very good evening, the temperature was about 75 degrees, the stands were packed solid, which was very good. I could just feel the electricity; it was a great feeling sitting out  there before 100,000-plus people and the millions that were looking at TV, so that in itself was a great support. I felt almost weightless. Into the starting blocs I went. The only thing I was actually focussing on was the gun  sound. When I heard that sound, it is all spontaneous. I think I had a very superb start. We were together for the first three hurdles, then that was where I started to make some little move. I think by the sixth hurdle I made a tremendous gap about two and a half to three metres on the field. To my left, I had seen Willie Davenport up to that time; I had actually seen him and almost heard him. Going down to the  seventh and eighth hurdles, I looked to my right and I could see Guy Drut vividly, coming through very strongly, so at that point the main thing was really to just concentrate and relax, move without clipping any hurdles- because if I was to clip anything from the seventh to the tenth hurdle I would have been in serious trouble with Guy Drut for sure, because he was the one coming very strongly for the second place.'
   GUY DRUT, the Olympic Champion of 76 about that race in Munich
" I looked at the three Americans and Siebeck because he was the European Champion, and I wanted to beat him because in Helsinki (In 1971) he clapped his hands when he saw me fall down, and I never forgot that. Hill was good, and Milburn would win. I had beaten Davenport three months before in Italy but I had never beaten Hill, so it was between me and Hill for second or third place,
  Rod Milburn told me later at the Queens Hotel, Crystal Palace in London later that it was no surprise that Guy Drut won in Montreal
   ' Exactly, it was no surprise. I predicted that he would win that next Olympics, and it was a very good time (1 Guy Drut 13.30, 2 Alejandro Casanas (Cub) 13.33 and 3 Willie Davenport, 13.38)
Willie Davenport inspired 'Hot' Rod Milburn in his early days as a hurdler
   "He inspired me most because of the fact he was one of the most fluent hurdlers with a lot of tenacity. He was just remarkable."

ROGER KINGDOM
(Born Vienna Georgia, 26th of August 1962)
Olympic Champion in 1984 and 1988

Los Angeles, 6 August 1984

1 Roger Kingdom  (USA) 13.20 Olympic Record, 2 Greg Foster (USA) 13.23; 3 Arto Bryggare (FIN) 13.40; 4 Mark McKoy (Can, the 1992 Champion) 13.45; 5 Tonie Campbell (USA) 13.55; 6 Stephane Caristan (FRA) 13.71; 7 Carlos Sala (ESP) 13.80; 8 Jeff Glass (CAN) 14.15.
   Roger Kingdom coached by Albert Kennedy explained " You  have to respect everyone in an Olympic Final or another such important race. You could be in a race with all the big names, Nehemiah, Greg Foster, Tonie Campbell, Roger Kingdom and Colin Jackson, but then "John Doe" might come up and beat everybody, so you can't take anyone for granted. You just have to make sure you prepare yourself. I think the thing that enabled me to do as well as I did was because they, so to speak, ruled me out and expected me to battle for the bronze with Mark McKoy of Canada, but being the competitor I was, young and nothing to lose, I wanted to win! I always go into a race trying to win. I never said " Well, I get second or maybe I get third!" If I had listened to the press and the media at that time, I would have settled for the bronze, and if somebody had a good day I would not even have got third place. You have always to shoot for the moon, so if you fall amongst the stars then you can be content with that, but never satisfied, content."

Seoul, 28th of September 1988


1 Roger Kingdom (USA) 12.80 Olympic record; 2 Colin Jackson (GBR) 13.28; 3 Tonie Campbell (USA) 13.38; 4 Vlaldimir Shishkin (URS) 13.51; 5 Jon Ridgeon (GBR)13.52; 6 Tony Jarrett (GBR) 13.54; 7 Mark McKoy (CAN) 13.61; 8 Arthur Blake (USA) 13.96
   " Before going to Seoul I was keeping at the top of my field, because I was competing against everyone who I considered composed the toughest competition for me, and if I continued to beat them, then that was playing a mental game too. It is programming in their minds, "Here he goes again, " and I can say, " Look how many times I have beaten this guy." and I got to the Olympic Games training hard, knowing that if I can run the times I have been running against the tough competition, that I will get the gold, so that is why I like to run against them, because the better my competition is the better I am going to be."
   COLIN JACKSON that 'Great' hurdler explained about the strengths of Roger Kingdom when he competed against him
   " He uses his height, weight and his speed to his best advantage."
    When did it all begin for Roger Kingdom " It was when I was a little kid, when we had moved to Florida from Georgia, where my parents ran up and down the street with us, racing back and forth from our house to my
cousin's house, which was approximately 150 metres or so away,. As my four brothers, one sister and I grew older, we got into running competitively,. We then started to compete against each other and for the school, and it became something big in our lives. We started to bring home medals, and we really got into it and drew a love for the sport."

ALLEN JOHNSON
(Born Washington DC, 1st of March 1971)
(Anier Garcia of Cuba won the following Olympic title in Sydney in 2000 in 13.00 (Second was Terrence Trammell of the USA 13.16) but Johnson beat Arnier Garcier in the World Championships of 2001)


Atlanta 29th of July 1996


1 Allen Johnson (USA) 12.95 Olympic record; 2 Mark Crear (USA) 13.09; 3 Florian Schwarhoff (Germany) 13.17; 4 Colin Jackson (GB) 13.19; 5 Emilio Valle (Cuba) 13.20; 6 Eugene Swift (USA) 13.23; 7 Kyle Vander-Kuyp (Australia) 13.40; 8 Erik Batte (Cuba) 13.43.
   '" I felt it was going to be Mark Crear as my main competitor as well as Colin Jackson; Schwarthoff was running really, really well and anything was possible. I also had Emilio Valle to my right. He was a tough runner.  Going into the final I was thinking mainly of what I had to do and make sure I got out of the blocks well and make sure I did not make any mistakes.I felt extremely confident and felt like I could run however fast to run to win, no matter how fast the next man ran. At that moment I felt I could run a step faster.'
   ' It was like I was one with the hurdles. It is not like they are barriers, it was just like me and the hurdles together are just one. I know every inch of it and everything"
   How did it all begin for Allen Johnson I wondered as I talked to him in the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Oslo, on the 12th of July, 2001 " In the very beginning I was a long jumper and really more a field events person. Andrew Tisinger looked at me one day and said, " You have long legs, I am going to make you a hurdler." It was that simple! The following week in practice I started hurdling. I did the intermediate hurdles which was over 300m in the State of Virginia where I lived. I did the high and the long jump plus the triple jump sparingly."

DAYRON ROBLES
(Born Guantanamo 19th of November 1986)

Previous Olympic Games in Athens was won by Liu Xiang of China in a World Record of 12.91 and Dayron Robles beat that with a World record of 12.87 at Ostrava on the 12th of June 2008. David Oliver of the USA had the five fastest times in the World no 2010 with a best of 12.89. The new man on the scene, coached by John Smith, Jason Richardson was the World Champion in 2011 with Xiang awarded 2nd place and the UK's Andy Turner, the European & Commonwealth Champion third. Robles was disqualified).

Beijing 21st of  August 2008


1 Dayron Robles (CUB) 12.93; 2 David Payne (USA) 13.17; 3 David Oliver (USA) 13.18; 4 :Ladji Doucoure (FRA) 13.18; 5 Artur Noga (POL) 13.36; 6 Maurice Wignall (JAM) 13.46; 7 Richard Phillips (JAM) 13.60; 8 Jackson Quinonez (ESP) 13.69.

        " It was probably the most memorable for me to win an Olympic title especially as there were so many other Olympic Champions from Cuba and being able to win in China was something as, it was pretty well Liu Xaings's home. A great accomplishment."
How did it all begin for Dayron Robles " I really started at 10 years old because in Cuba track and field sports are 'Big' so it was easy for me. I won a race by a big margin at 14 and then at 17 I went to Havana and ran in the National Championships with the best Cubans. It was then I realised I would be a force in athletics."

An example of Hurdling being such a technical event.

I remember Jason Richardson talking to me at a Croydon hotel in the Summer of 2011. He pointed out how improvements can be made. At that time he had not yet featured in an international Championship event as, it was before the World Championships, which he won in 13.16.
   " A lot of changes had to be made with my lead arm, with John (Smith) being the coach with a large sprint repertoire he was able to help in that direction. Taken from that the sprinting position between the hurdles, really getting my hips under me also translates to being more efficient body wise over the hurdles. There is not a lot of openness to my technique that we are going to work on."

Alastair Aitken

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