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HomeAthleticsSally Gunnell on Femke Bol's fantastic 2023 season

Sally Gunnell on Femke Bol’s fantastic 2023 season


Olympic and international 400m hurdles champion + former international record-holder tells AW why Femke Bol rebuilding her hurdles method will have to be observed as her biggest success

Femke Bol bookended the International Championships in spectacularly fluctuating taste. On opening evening, there was once the drama of the younger Dutch athlete crashing to the bottom with Blended 4x400m relay gold in sight. Then, within the ultimate monitor motion of this athletics extravaganza, she engulfed her warring parties with an unforgettable last surge to clinch 4x400m relay gold for the Dutch ladies’s group. 

The pendulum swing of feelings inquisitive about going from that painful low to an adrenaline-fuelled top would were greater than sufficient for many athletes to cope with. 

Bol, alternatively, isn’t maximum athletes. 

In between her relay performances was once the small topic of contesting the 400m hurdles. Within the absence of protecting champion and international record-holder Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the 23-year-old was once an enormous favorite. 

Bol’s yr has been of the extremely spectacular selection. An indoor season introduced Ecu titles within the 400m and 4x400m, in addition to breaking what have been the oldest international listing within the athletics historical past books by way of clocking 49.26 for 400m. 

Femke Bol wins the arena 400m hurdles name (Getty)

Whilst this was once all happening, even though, she was once making large adjustments in her technique to the 400m hurdles. In a bid to get quicker, her stride development, which had in the past concerned taking 15 steps between every barrier, would now be 14. Doing so would additionally require the facility to hurdle off every leg, somewhat than all the time favouring her more potent choice. 

Sally Gunnell, the 1992 Olympic champion who broke the arena listing when successful the arena 400m hurdles name in Stuttgart 30 years in the past, is aware of simply how tough a talent this is to grasp. There’s a bravery, she insists, in being prepared to try this – specifically in this sort of top profile atmosphere. 

“Converting your lead leg and converting your stride development, she’s accomplished all of that this yr,” says Gunnell. “I feel what makes her this sort of large deal is that she’s ready to make the ones adjustments, that she has the arrogance to move for 14 strides and has the technical skill [to pull it off].

“There’s such a lot that is going into the 400m hurdles. You’ve were given to stay the rate up, you’ve were given to have the energy. You’ll’t overstride, you’ve were given with the intention to modify plus there’s the wind and all of those factos that are available in.

“She’s labored onerous over the wintry weather and has had the arrogance and the realization from her trainer pronouncing ‘you’ll be able to do that’. However to in truth do this in a Grand Prix and check out those new issues [is amazing].”

Femke Bol at London Diamond League (Getty by means of British Athletics)

The assembly to which Gunnell is referring is the London Diamond League the place Bol broke the Ecu listing with 51.45. It was once a positive signal that the adjustments have been taking root and the easiest preparation for Budapest, the place she recovered from that first evening fall to depart her competitors trailing in her wake and take the primary international name of her occupation.

It’s a feat which is able to’t be overrated, says Gunnell. Bol was once successfully rewiring her mind.

“It’s to do together with your rhythm and the development of your mind and, in fact, you wish to have to move on for your secure leg,” she continues. “We’ve all the time were given one dominant leg, whoever you’re, and you’ve got to coach your self with the intention to pass over the hurdle with that subsequent leg.

“To try this, it’s about going again to fundamentals. That’s simply drilling and nearly forgetting the left-hand aspect of your mind and kicking in together with your right-hand aspect and getting out of unhealthy conduct.

“That adjust and drilling and drilling and drilling can infrequently be in reality dull. That’s the onerous paintings and, while you get drained, while you don’t suppose correct in a race, the oxygen hasn’t fairly long past in there otherwise you’ve simply long past too onerous between hurdle 3 and 4, that’s when it’s simple to click on again on for your sturdy leg.

Sally Gunnell (Mark Shearman)

“That’s the place the visualisation piece which is huge on this [comes in], figuring out what your stride development is and simply drilling that over and over again and over on your thoughts.”

Gunnell admits there have been positive stride patterns she may handiest use in primary championships “on account of force and getting your frame at its top on this small window” so for Bol to control it within the build-up in addition to at the large instance, spoke volumes. 

As anyone who stays an ardent fan of her match, Gunnell now hopes the arena gets to peer McLaughlin-Levrone and Bol going face to face once more in Olympic yr, given the good strides that have actually been taken by way of the Ecu champion.

“She’s an enormous skill and I’d love to peer her and Sydney available in the market working once more given how some distance Femke has come on this ultimate 365 days.”

Who is aware of what may now be imaginable within the subsequent 12? 

» This text first gave the impression within the September factor of AW mag. Subscribe right here

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