Getting the Best Advice

Age seems to be no barrier these days for fast times, entry into the Olympics or record books. A statement like that often refers to older athletes and their ambitions. But in this case if refers to the younger millennial generation, those born in 2000 or after. These athletes are challenging the norms of race tactics and rubbishing the notion that the finer arts of racing are acquired after years of practicing their craft.

At the last Olympics and World Championships there were many examples of millennials winning medals, running fast times and being tactically superior to their older, more experienced counterparts. While the women’s 800m and men’s 1500m were good examples of millennial dominance there was also an 18-year-old medalist in the women’s Olympic 200m. Beforehand she had broken 22 seconds 4 times. To put that in context, New Zealand has only ever had one female athlete break 23 seconds. The women’s Olympic 800m gold and silver medals were gained by millennials and won with negative lap times of 57.9 and 57.3. The winner has a 400m time of 49.6, a full 2 seconds faster than the fastest NZ time ever recorded. Could our past 400m runners have been better at 800m? This year, the men’s 5000m races are more regularly run under 12m50. Compare that to NZ who has never had an athlete faster than 13m10. What is wrong with our current coaching if we only have 2 current runners under 13m30?

Inconsistent pace has always been typical of championship races, but the latest athletics stars are equally able to run fast from the front or run with the leaders before unleashing a fast last lap. This year, the men’s 1500m event has nearly 20 men faster than John Walker’s PB with 6 of them under 21 years old. If looking further back, our greatest middle-distance Olympian, Peter Snell, would not even make it to the Olympics given his fastest time was 3m37.6. To qualify he would have had to run faster than 3m35. These men were exceptionally talented and the best of their generation. Therefore coaching methods must have changed substantially. More and more college boys are running sub 4 minutes for 1 mile. The barrier that in the 1950s was seen as a pinnacle of human endurance, is now regularly beaten in the last mile of a 5km or 10km race.

This year’s Olympics and Diamond League races have also challenged the notion that to do well in middle and long distance you had to be African and born at high altitude. European athletes born at sea level have managed to dominate events and earn medals. The statistics show that 43 different countries won a track and field medal with 23 different countries winning gold. Our sport is a global one, it is tough to win but the only barrier to success are ones we put up ourselves. The old way of training will no longer take you to the top. What does this mean for NZ athletes wanting to do well? Firstly, accept the NZ goal of only selecting finalists and potential medalists. Our shot putters can do it and so can golf, rugby, rowing, trampolining, sailing, canoeing, and boxing. There are no participant prizes. Today there is more information on training methods and race statistics. Learn more about your event. Ask questions and demand answers. If your times have not improved since last year, then something is wrong. Modern training dictates that consistency, volume, intensity and a progressive load result in faster times. What is your weakness and how can you improve it? Make sure you are getting the best up-to-date advice and being the best you can be.