The Hurdle – Part I
I wish that I had some pictures to express what I am about to discuss, but I do not unfortunately. To follow along, the best that I can do is have you reference a YouTube video of Cheng Fei’s Yurchenko 2 1/2 from 2005 World’s in Melbourne. At :51 seconds in, there is a side view in slower motion. If you stop the YouTube player, you can see much of what I describe below. I tried to create screen shots, but the camera quality is not good enough and it’s too blurry.
The hurdle by definition is simply a transition from a run such that the athlete can maintain as much of the horizontal momentum as possible that was generated from the run into their tumbling skill(s) or vault.
When walking/running, the center of mass is constantly moving upwards and downwards. With that said, the goal is to keep the center of mass as constant as possible as any major displacement will affect the horizontal momentum that has been generated.
Despite this, I believe that there should be a bit of a vertical component to the hurdle. I like to see the hurdle go both upwards and forwards. Will you lose a little horizontal momentum? Yes. The same happens in vaulting. But, I believe it’s minimal. The reason that I feel that you must go slightly upwards is because of the back leg and where it contacts the ground.
David Kenwright, Olympic coach in Canada, and someone that I respect greatly, teaches his athletes to try and “scoot” or “shuffle” (I believe is his terminology) their initial contact leg (which is the “kicking” leg of a round-off/cartwheel) underneath of them as it initially contacts the ground. When watching the top tumblers, this definitely seems to be a trend as all of the best do it. Whether they were taught or they do it naturally, it happens.
Stacy Maloney, head coach/director at Swiss Turners in Wisconsin, is another person that I heard discussing the importance of the position of the back leg. I have uploaded an excerpt from a lecture that he gave at the 2003 Region IV Congress (I believe…I dubbed this from another coach) where he discusses three important aspects of the RO.
Note: I apologize for the poor sound quality. I dubbed this video from someone else – from VHS to VHS and I used Dazzle software to convert it to digital format. If you use headphones or turn up your speakers, you should be able to hear it.
In part II, I will look a little more at the mechanics of the hurdle and my mechanical rationale for the importance of the position of the back leg as such.