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Legendary U.S. Coach Talks About Training Chinese Horizontal Jumpers

Coach Randy Huntington is perhaps best known as the coach of Mike Powell, Willie Banks, Sheila Hudson, and other elite horizontal jumpers. For the past two years, Huntington has coached top Chinese jumpers and sprinters at a training center in Beijing. His athletes include Bin Dong, who has the world-leading mark of 17.41m (57-1½) and will be one of the favorites in Saturday night’s men’s triple jump final at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016. His answers below are excerpted from an interview on Saturday afternoon.

Q: What are the key differences between working with Chinese athletes and American athletes?

A: Well, language obviously. I don’t speak Mandarin. I’m not good with languages. So the nuances, the little things you can teach an American athlete, the cues, you can’t do it. You have to find other ways of doing it …. it affects the way you coach. It makes you a better coach because you have to boil things down to the basics.

But the biggest difference between American and Chinese track and field athletes is confidence. In this sport, not necessarily in weightlifting, gymnastics, table tennis, etc. Before they would look at every competition as the Olympics, and that’s tough because we look at competitions as opportunities to teach and correct, to improve our ability. They look at it as a judgment.

Q: What has worked really well in your training of Chinese athletes?

A: Moving them toward more intensity in their training and out of moderate intensity only. We talk about low-velocity power and high-velocity power. For instance, the takeoff: Now these guys would look all-world at six steps (approach) and then they go to a full approach and it’s (not good). What just happened? Now they are starting to understand how to bring your full speed through your takeoff and still leave the ground.

That’s our real challenge because they don’t have the basketball background. Most of (the American) athletes have that, the basketball background. They were (basketball) players in high school. (The Chinese athletes I coach) are starting to figure it out. After two and a half years (the coaching) is starting to have an effect.

Then there are the physical skills. Becoming faster. Becoming stronger. Learning how to run. Learning how to sprint well. You can run fast but not run well. The way I coach the events you have to know how to run well and execute what I need you to do.

Q: How is track and field talent identified in China since there is no high school or college system of athletics?

A: They just gave them to me. I haven’t picked my own athletes yet. They have their National Games and that is the most important thing. When China wasn’t allowed in the Olympic Games … they created the National Games. It is kind of like a national Olympic Games where the athletes represent their city or province, and it happens once every four years.

Q: What keeps you in China at this point?

A: Two things. I want to leave a legacy and represent the United States in a positive way to the people of China. That’s the Eugene in me right there. I also want to leave these (athletes I coach) the knowledge to go on and do what they need to do.

Q: What is your connection to Oregon?

A: I transferred to Lane Community College from Western Michigan, and then transferred to the University of Oregon after a year. I volunteered as an assistant track coach under Dennis Whidby and Bill Dellinger for five or six years. I eventually got my degree from Oregon, so I’m a Duck.

 

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