Interview with Liam Collins, 400mH, Bobsled, Faces of Disco

This is part 9 of the Freelap Friday Five Series, 2013 Edition. To review the 16 part 2012 edition, click here.

Part 1 was Matt Scherer, Professional Pacer-Rabbit.

Part 2 was Stuart McMillan, Bobsled and former UKA Sprint Coach.

Part 3 was Dean Starkey, PV Coach and former Elite Pole Vaulter.

Part 4 was Mike Hurst, Journalist and Australian 400 meter Coach.

Part 5 was Craig Pickering, UK Sprinter and Bobsledder

Part 6  was April Holmes, Paralympic 100m Olympic Gold Medalist

Part 7 was Chip Jenkins, former 600m AR, and 4x400m 1992 Olympic Gold Medalist

Part 8 was Kevin Tyler, former UKA Head of Coaching

Faces of Disco

Being in Rome, I had the chance to watch Italy’s Got Talent the past few Saturday nights.  It’s based on Simon Cowell’s Britains Got Talent and one of the Finalist on the Italian show was Faces of Disco.  They also appeared in the 2009 edition of Britain’s Got Talent.

The show, for those who don’t know it, consisted of 6 weeks of auditions, followed by 2 rounds of semi-finals, then the Final on March 16 with the top 16 acts.

Why is this relevant?

But there’s a lot more to the dancers behind the masks, and my questions will be obvious.

So in this edition of The Freelap Friday Five, I interview Liam Collins with a strong background in the 110mH and 400mH and more recently bobsled (bobsleigh in the UK).  Visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/FacesOfDisco

Friday Five is sponsored by Freelap Track and Field, a leader in electronic timing.

Interview with Liam Collins

Freelap Friday Five

Q1: A lot of people worldwide know you as the dancer in Faces of Disco.  But your true athletic roots started in the hurdles, both 110mH and 400mH.  In 2004, you came an agonizing 4th at Team GB Olympic Trials for 400m hurdles.  At what point did you make the switch from 110mH to 400mH?

Polish coach and researcher, Janusz Iskra, divides potential long hurdlers into three groups for the purpose of devising training programs specific to the various individual physical attributes:  (a) Motor/Special Endurance 400 sprint types), (b) Technical high hurdlers and (c) Rhythm groups.  Which one best describes you?  (and maybe give some insight to your training back then)

Liam Collins:  I was definitely type “B” although we were not coached based on our backgrounds it was a one programme fits all approach which seemed to work fine but looking back maybe a programme tailored to my background may have helped. My training partners were Kemel Thompson of Jamaican with a 48.05 in 2003, Chris Rawlinson 48.14, Iwan Thomas 44.36 400m, Martyn Rooney 44.9 400m, Matt Douglas 48.5 400mh so it was a strong group. My best session where I would beat most of these guys was 6x300m with 6 mins between reps and 12 between reps 3,4. I would run them in 37.8.

Q2:  After your hurdle career, you switched to Bobsled (Craig Pickering and Lolo Jones are 2 recent examples who have switch, but plan on continuing with their track careers, too)  What initiated that move?  How did you find life on the circuit?  How different was Bobsled, compared to track, and what advice can you give aspiring bobsledders?

Liam Collins:  I left track due to Achilles injuries. In 2011 these were heeled. I had friends who had tried out for the bobsled team and it was something that sounded exciting. I tried out and passed all speed and strength tests and qualified for ice testing in Latvia where I qualified for the GB team with Lamin Dean as my driver. My first slide was in Germany the day after one of the female pushers had broken her back in 2 places and been helicoptered off to hospital. It was a terrifying moment for all of the team. life on the bob circuit is hard work much harder than track. In track you only have to look after your body. In bob you need to look after you body but also prepare your sled. The runners need to be polished daily and this can take hours. It’s freezing rather than sunny training in LA. it’s just a lot of hard work lifting bobs on and off trailers and your life is in the hands of the drivers. If he has a bad run its bad news. My advice aspiring bobsledders is to make sure they establish good biomechanics first and proper lifting techniques because to move those sleds you need to be se to move huge amounts of weights. There is no other way around it. In order to lift the weights required you need the right mechanics and techniques or injuries will be inevitable. Eat lots and lift lots after that lush lots and foam roll twice a day on the quads.

Liam Collins is the brakeman (the last guy to jump in) in this video.

Q3:  You are well known for being a finalist in BGT 2009, and more recently made the finals the IGT 2013.   How difficult is it balancing work and track/bobsled, and the travel?  Are you worried about getting injured, with the physical demands of dancing?  I’ve seen some crazy moves where you literally jump in the air and bodyslam yourself onto the floor (or was that your dance partner?)…

Liam Collins: Those crazy jumps were my partners…  I keep those to a minimum now. Bobsled is mostly self funded so you need to have a job you can do for 8 months so you can go away for 4 months.  Dancing allows me to do this as I mostly street perform when I can. It’s tiring but I’ve managed to balance training and dancing this year. Time management is the key. If you can get sponsors to help you even better.

Q4:  How is it performing live in from of TV .. any different than a televised track meet or bobsled?  Do we really see everything on the camera? What don’t we see? The endless rehearsals prior to the live show?  Tell us an off-the-camera moment (i.e. your face masks were “missing” prior to the show)

Liam Collins: Performing live on TV on a programme like Britain or Italy’s Got Talent is hugely different to being in a sporting competition. The major difference is one is a real competition where you win or lose based on times and distances and one is based on whether the audience watching likes you. If track or bobsled was judged by audiences and who they liked or which guys had the best sob story results would be very different. You have to accept there is a script and you’re either in it or you’re not. I was lucky to be in the Finals as clearly the producers thought we made good viewing but unlike real competitions they picked our competitors for the semi finals they were not drawn randomly. You are at the mercy of how they portray you via camera angles, lighting etc… they can make or break you. I like bobsled because if you run the time, lift the weights or push the bob in the right time you make the team. There are minor politics like any sport but nothing like a TV show which is there to entertain and nothing else. Unlike watching bobsled on TV without the cameras the event would still be taking place with IGT or BGT take the cameras away and there is no event.

Q5:  You’ll be turning 35 this year (in October).  What are your plans?  Sochi 2014 Olympic Games?  Are you still with Team (Lamin) Deen?  How about making a comeback on the Masters Track scene?   (The M35 WR are brutal as several elite hurdlers continued past 35 and 40 years old, for example, Danny McFarlane 400mH with a 48.13 at M35 and 49.69 at M40) 

Liam Collins:   My targets this year at the beginning of the year was to make the final of Italy’s Got Talent and I managed to achieve that. My next challenge is to make the Olympic Team for Sochi 2014. Failing that I will try and win the Masters M35 60m hurdles in Budapest in March and then the European Gold in the summer. The world records are very tough indeed as, like you say, many great athletes are staying in the sport longer as medicine and rehab improves. I will never stop finding new challenges for my mind or body even if I fail at some and achieve in others as stretching is the only way to find out what is possible.

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