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Milburn Lives!

May 17, 2015

I recently received an email from Michael Daniels of Baton Rouge, LA. Daniels went to high school with Rodney Milburn, the 1972 Olympic champion in the 110 hurdles. A biography that I wrote on Milburn, The Quiet Champion, is available to read on this website.

Daniels is the project leader of the J.S. Clark Memorial Walkway in Milburn’s hometown of Opelousas, LA. (J.S. Clark is the name of the high school Milburn attended; it no longer exists). A bust of Milburn will be a feature of the project. The bust is already completed, and was sculpted by DJ Dawden of Utah. Clark says that, “like all of us, Dawden felt a kinship to Rodney. I sent him about 10 pics. He did a composite using those and he added the gold medal. All of Rodney’s family cried when we had the unveiling.”

Below are photos of the bust, of the walkway, as well as some vintage pics from Milburn’s high school, college, and professional days.

Milburn lives!

A Coacher’s Life

April 15, 2015

At my new teaching job I gave the students an extra credit assignment that involved writing a one-page response to an episode of Spike TV’s reality show “Coaching Bad.” If you haven’t seen it, it features a group of about six coaches from various sports (including one track coach) and shows how they have serious anger issues and control issues and can be very abusive to their athletes. The host is former NFL star Ray Lewis, who tries to get the coaches to see the errors of their ways, and tries to get them to change for the better.

So I was reading through my students’ responses, when I came across a line in one of them in which the student referred to one of the coaches as a “very bad coacher.” Coacher? At first I thought it must’ve been a typo, but then I realized that this student, who had no athletic background whatsoever, assumed that “coacher” was the right word to identify someone who coaches. When I returned the papers I asked him about it, and he said “Yeah, coacher.”

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Good Bye Liu Xiang

April 8, 2015

Well it’s official, Liu Xiang has retired from track and field. For many of us who have followed the men’s 110m hurdles over the past decade or so, this is a very sad day, even though we could see it coming. For the past several years, injuries to his Achilles and ankle have slowed him down severely, limiting him to very few competitions.

When I look back on Liu’s career, several defining moments come to mind, beginning with his Olympic victory in 2004, when he dominated the race, defeating silver medalist Terrence Trammell by almost a full three tenths of a second. Then there was the world record race in 2006, when he ran 12.88 and Dominque Arnold broke the American record, finishing second in 12.90. And there were a whole lot of other races where Liu ran against the best and came out on top amongst the likes of Allen Johnson, Dayron Robles, and many others.

Where Liu stands in the pantheon of all-time greats is open to debate. With an injury-shortened career, he didn’t have the longevity of a Johnson or a Greg Foster or Colin Jackson. But for me, Liu’s status has more to do with his mastery of the event than with his achievements. In my eyes, when it comes to technical precision and executing near-flawless races time and time again, Liu is the best there ever was.

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