POSE IN PRESS A collection of articles about Pose Method and Dr.Romanov in various publications.
GUARDIAN UNLIMITED (UK)
Monday June 7, 2004
Medal hopes turn on weird ways of Romanov dynasty
Peta Bee on a new breed of maverick coaches
Bizarre training methods and kooky diets are far from unusual in sport. Indeed, approaches that seem outlandish to the rest of us are the norm in a world geared towards gaining an edge of milliseconds over a rival. Every so often, though, along comes someone with such seemingly oddball ideas that the boundaries of preparation are pushed to a new level of eccentricity. And in Athens Britain's biggest medal haul could come from sports in which a handful of influential coaches have been prepared to break the mould in search of success.
One is Dr Nicholas Romanov who was recruited by the British Triathlon Association after the Sydney Olympics to help with the squad's build-up to this year's games. Romanov has theories about human movement that are quirky, to say the least, but which have a proven success rate for those who have adopted them, including Britain's Tim Don and Andrew Johns and the whole United States triathlon team. For 30 years the Russian sports scientist has been fine-tuning an approach he calls the "Pose" method.
This requires athletes to "un-learn" their own running style and to reprogramme their bodies to move in an entirely different way.
Romanov's radical belief is that most people, including top athletes, run inefficiently. This slows them down and leaves them vulnerable to niggles and strains. He uses video analysis and training aids such as rubber ropes that strap around the ankles and are held by a partner who applies resistance as an athlete attempts to run landing "only on the balls of the feet", not the heels, with "legs moving directly beneath the torso".
Ultimately the aim is a slightly odd-looking, upright style with arms pumping like pistons, mimicking the former sprinter Michael Johnson who, Romanov claims, executed Pose perfectly.
In some respects triathletes have had it easy in that this is the only real departure from an otherwise established regimen. For swimmers it has been a different story. The attempts of British Swimming's performance director Bill Sweetenham to change the work ethic, training patterns and belief systems of those in the sport is now legendary. Since Sydney, where no medals were won in the pool, he has periodically banned massages, body shaving, competition tapering and the wearing of full-length body-suits. Instead he has introduced 6am swims and increased the distance covered in training to 60,000 metres a week. His strategy, still criticised by some, is to instill in swimmers and coaches the understanding that he is solely in charge of their progress and that his single aim is, as theirs should be, medal success in Athens.
In April we got the latest glimpse of how realistic Sweetenham's goals have become when Britain achieved 15 victories in 24 individual races at an international open event in France. Yet since then the Australian coach has exerted even tighter control on the squad's movements. Until the Olympics are over swimmers will give no newspaper interviews, make no appearances on television or radio and do no promotional work. PR companies and advertising agencies are told to call back at the end of August. Sweetenham's theory is that only winners have something worth saying.
By comparison the approach of Charles van Commenee, a technical director with UK Athletics and coach to two medal prospects in the heptathlon, Denise Lewis and Kelly Sotherton, might seem less ruthless. But in many ways the Dutchman is as demanding of his athletes as Sweetenham in that he refuses to accept anything less than total commitment. Lewis describes him as "a tyrant"; when she gave birth to her daughter, Van Commenee reportedly quit as Lewis's coach because he doubted that motherhood and world- class performance would mix. Now, with results to prove his approach works, his reputation as an unforgiving taskmaster is gaining more respect than criticism.
What sets each of these maverick coaches apart is an unswerving faith in their own methods. In daring to be different they have challenged what is acceptable in terms of athletic effort and application. Let us hope Athens brings them their rewards.
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