I’ve been waiting for this article to come out.
There was a lot of news with Michael Johnson’s Golden Track spikes back in 1996.
And we are still waiting for the Asafa Powell spikes expected to make an appearance at Beijing. We’ll see if he wins a gold after Usain Bolts 9.72 World Record and Tyson Gay’s 9.68 wind aided performance. Nothing is guaranteed.
Here is a good read from the NY Times.
Breaking In a New Coach and New Shoes
EUGENE, Ore. – In an attempt to win another Olympic gold medal and set the world record at 400 meters, Jeremy Wariner made two dramatic moves this year changing his coach and his shoes.
The first move, parting with his coach, Clyde Hart, brought a shock to track and field circles in January. Hart, after all, is widely considered the top quarter-mile tutor in the world. He coached Wariner to Olympic gold in 2004 and previously guided Michael Johnson to Olympic supremacy and the world record of 43.18 seconds.
The second move, wearing Adidas spikes that address the significantly different ways in which Wariner’s left and right feet strike the ground, was an effort to shave hundredths of a second off his personal best of 43.45 seconds, the third-fastest time ever run.
Wariner will run the first round of the 400 on Sunday here at the United States Olympic track and field trials. So far, his switch to a new coach and new spikes has proved both encouraging and a risky gamble. Wariner has posted the world’s fastest time this year, at 43.98 seconds. But he was also handed a rare defeat â€” to the American LaShawn Merritt â€” at a meet in Berlin on June 1.
Some now view Wariner as vulnerable, though he clearly does not admit any susceptibility. He firmly believes he can become the first person to break 43 seconds and is determined to win Olympic gold medals in the 400 and the 4×400 relay.
“I feel I’m going to go out and P.R.,” Wariner said Saturday, meaning setting a personal record. “If anybody wants to beat me, they’re going to have to P.R. by a whole lot.”
When Wariner was beaten this month in Berlin, he summoned his kick “and I didn’t go nowhere.” Since then, he has worked to strengthen the final portion of his race, doing repetitions of 450 meters at practice, sprinting through the first 400 meters in 50 or 51 seconds when he once aimed for 53 seconds.
If he has put other quarter-milers in his rearview mirror, though, he has not yet fully escaped the backlash that came from severing ties with Hart, his longtime coach.
According to Hart, who coached Wariner at Baylor and then professionally, the move was a monetary decision. Wariner thought he was not making enough money after paying Johnson, who is his agent, and paying taxes, Hart said, and wanted to reduce his annual payment to his coach. Wariner previously paid him 10 percent of his earnings, Hart said, but wanted to cut that amount nearly in half.
Hart declined to take a pay cut.
“I don’t feel I’m a discount coach,” he said. “Jeremy had the best year of his life last year. I didn’t feel like a cut of nearly 50 percent was justified.”
Hart also said that Wariner might not have wanted such a strict coach now that he had become so accomplished. Wariner disputed Hart’s account. It was not money or strictness, he said. Wariner said he was concerned that Hart, who is in his 70s, would soon be retiring. Without being specific, Wariner also said, “There’s things I wasn’t comfortable with, and I needed a change.”
He is now coached by Michael Ford, an assistant at Baylor. His workouts are exactly the same, Wariner said, and if he needs Hart’s advice, he is certain Hart will oblige.
“He’s losing experience â€” when to do a workout or how to change things a little,” Hart said.
Johnson stayed out of the dispute, Hart said. Both sides say they wish each other well. His focus now, Wariner said, is repeating as Olympic champion and breaking Johnson’s world record.
To that end, Adidas has developed what it calls the first asymmetrical track spikes, creating shoes that are meant to perform different functions for each foot.
Adidas engineers found that Wariner uses his left, or inside, foot for stability and his right for propulsion. His left foot strikes the ground along the midline, while his right strikes on the outside and rotates inward as he pushes off with his big toe and second toe.
Essentially, Wariner’s right foot is always running the curve, even when he is on a straightway, said Mic Lussier, the head of Adidas’s innovation team.
To facilitate Wariner’s power and traction in the curve, the new shoe, called the Lone Star, contains plastic claws, or crampons, on the inside front edge of his right shoe. Lussier compares the design to a racecar with different suspension systems on the left and right sides for racing the turns.
The second curve of the 400 “or the third 100-meter section” is considered the strongest part of Wariner’s race. “A lot of people seem to relax a little bit and take a breather real quick before they get into their kick,” he said. “That’s where we make up a lot of ground.”
The sole, or plate, of the shoe is made of carbon nanotubes, which make it 50 percent lighter and a third as thick as Wariner’s previous shoes. The spikes themselves have also been redesigned. Many spikes are pyramid or Christmas-tree shaped. Wariner’s new spikes have a tiny head and broad shoulders.
This design is meant to compress the surface of the track instead of piercing it deeply, thus preventing a valuable loss of energy by ripping in and out of the track with each step. Wariner’s spikes penetrate the track only about two or three millimeters, compared with six or seven with other spikes, Lussier said.
Shoes alone will not bring a world record, though. Wariner says he needs to improve his start and forget about time.
“When you try to force time, you’re going to tighten up or think you’re running too fast or too slow,” he said. “I’ve got to run comfortable, let it come.”