Famous will get best help money can buy
Troy Douglas has no doubts that the $2,978 grant high jumper Sakari Famous received this week for special coaching from Dutch sports performance consultant Henk Kraaijenhof will be money well spent.
Government awarded 12 young athletes funds ranging from $2,374 to $6,108 on Thursday to assist them with their development in their sports and Douglas, the national track and field coach, believes both 15-year-old Famous and her jumping coach Rohaan Simons will benefit immensely from time spent with Kraaijenhof when he comes to Bermuda next month.
“He’s my mentor, everything I learnt about coaching I learnt from him,” said Douglas who was coached by Kraaijenhof during his career as a sprinter.
“He can coach any event but has a strong eye for understanding talent and the total athlete. He has worked with athletes at a high class level, from Mary Pierce [tennis], Edgar Davids, Juventus [football team] and introduced a testing system called Omegawave,” Douglas said. “He’s just one of the best coaches in the world, up there with the top five track and field coaches of all time.
“He has a great eye for talent in every aspect and coached a Dutch sprinter name Nelli Cooman who beat the Eastern Europeans when they were at their height. Henk changed everything about her, her diet, her training style. He coached [sprinter] Merlene Ottey for a long time and the list of athletes he has worked with is like a who’s who in track and field, who’s who in football. He even did tests with the Chicago Bulls when Michael Jordan was playing for them.”
At the 60 metres, Cooman is a two-times world indoor champion, six-times European indoor champion and former world record-holder, running 7.00sec in 1986.
“Henk was the first person to coach a female athlete to run seven-flat in 60 metres,” said Douglas, who met Kraaijenhof in 1989.
“He’s one of the best coaches in the world and I really believe this is a great opportunity for Sakari. I explained to him that this clinic is not just for Sakari but also for Rohaan.”
Famous, 15, rose to prominence with her medal-winning performances at the past three Carifta Games when she won a silver in Bahamas in 2013, a silver in Martinique last year and a bronze in the under-18 high jump last month in St Kitts.
Last summer she beat the US national record (1.74 metres) for the 13-14 age group when she cleared the bar at 1.75 metres (5ft 8in) while representing Pacers Track Club at the Russell E. Blunt East Coast Invitational Track Meet in Durham, North Carolina.
Douglas has no doubt Famous will continue to raise the bar. “Sakari is a real diamond in the rough. I chose Henk because I believe Sakari is such a unique athlete and I want Rohaan to identify that because she is a unique individual,” said the national coach.
Douglas remembers having to convince Kraaijenhof that he was worth coaching when he met him 26 years ago.
“I met him at the World Indoor Championships in Budapest because of my manager,” Douglas said.
“I had just run the national record and told him I wanted to work with him. He said ‘you’re not fast enough, go away’. I never got a chance to work with him until 1992 when I said ‘I really want to work with you’.
“He asked me what was my PB and when I told him he said, ‘it’s still slow, go away’.
“I really got mad and said ‘if you’re such a good, damn coach then you should be good enough to damn well coach me’. He said ‘that’s what I’ve been waiting for, for the last three years, Troy’, and it blossomed into a great friendship.
“He understands the total athlete, the total person and knows what drives an individual. When Sakari goes off to college she is going to be better prepared because she knows what her talent is. This is where Henk will start her on that journey. She can jump 1.85 this year. At 18 or 19 she could be jumping two metres, if she does the work.”
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