Feature14 May 2000

Just who is Stanislavs Olijars’ inspiration?


Tony Jarrett (© Getty Images)

Ask any aspiring sprint hurdler in Britain who their idol is and the majority would answer Colin Jackson, the double world champion and world record holder indoors and out.

But then ask the young Latvian who is closing in on the elite who he looks up to and Jackson would not figure in his thoughts.

On a bedroom wall in the Latvian capital of Riga, Stanislavs Olijars has a poster of Tony Jarrett, the Englishman who has made a career almost out of living in Jackson's slipstream.

Even Jarrett's finest moment was overshadowed by Jackson at the World Championships in Stuttgart in 1993; gold and silver for Britain but who really remembers the person who was second that night?

Olijars does.

"I have looked up to Tony and he has always been someone I have admired," says Olijars. "The way he runs and what he has done in his career has been an inspiration to me."

Fan or not, when it comes to competition friendship has to go out of the window and so it proved in Ghent in February when Olijars took the first big title of his fast-improving career when he won the 60 metres at the European Indoors. Who was second? Who else?

But on this occasion Jarrett had nothing but praise for the 21-year-old who is ready to make an impression on the scene this summer culminating in the Olympic Games.

It is hardly surprising he has progressed so far so quickly; his mother Ludmila holds the Latvian record for 100 metres hurdling of 12.90secs and while Jarrett may be the guiding light, she is the technical expert, coach and trackside guru.

Stanislavs is the reigning world junior champion, holds a personal best for the 110m hurdles of 13.28secs and carries his first senior title into his Olympic preparations knowing the rest of the world must now take a good look at him if he is lining up alongside them.

No European champion is there just to make up the numbers.

"He has the ability to become one of the best in the world," says Jarrett, who used to be coached by Ludmila. "He has a great hurdles technique, is quick off the mark and is progressing rapidly.

"I have known his mother and him for a while and it has been fantastic to see his progress. He will be one the new names to look out for in Sydney."

Barring any problems, when Stanislavs, at 6ft, 2ins makes it to the Games there will be no one prouder than his mother.

Naturally she has been there to help him all the way since he decided to follow her fast footsteps and become a track athlete.

And now he has the opportunity to go one better than her; she never actually made the Olympics as a high hurdler--after qualifying for the team in 1984, she was denied her opportunity when the Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles games.

How in Sydney he will contend with Welshman Jackson - who became the first Briton to regain a world title in Seville, Americans Allen Johnson and Tony Dees, and Cuban Anier Garcia, will be interesting but Olijars started the year in the best possible way.

He lowered his personal best to 7.50sec when he won gold at the European Indoors ahead of Jarrett who was second in 7,.53secs.

With a swift start, Olijars seems to ease his way over the barriers, with effortless technique, fast making him one of the biggest young stars on the scene.

Richard Lewis for the IAAF

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