The ties that bind help win medals that matter
Fathers and husbands who have turned coaches are motivating their wards to medal-winning displays at the Doha Worlds.
As American high jumper Vashti Cunningham prepared to tackle a fresh height in the World Championships final in Doha on Monday evening, her eyes sought out her father sitting up in the stands.
A silent message from the dad, who is also her coach, seemed to have done the trick as Cunningham sailed over the bar, set at 2M.
For the father-daughter duo, it was a moment to cherish as Vashti won the bronze medal, finishing behind Mariya Lasitskene and Yaroslava Mahuchikh.
It is all in the family for Vashti and her dad Randall, their story adding another chapter to the endearing saga of fathers, husbands or close relatives guiding their near ones to glory.
Many such stories have brightened the Doha days, starting with American DeAnna Price’s triumph in hammer throw. Price is coached by her husband John Lambert and the two struck a chord with fans and media alike.
For Vashti, her father Randall’s career as a professional athlete has helped her a lot.
“He knows so much and what’s required to succeed because he has competed at a high level,” said 21-year-old.
Vashti’s father is a retired quarterback who played in the National Football League in the United States for 16 seasons. That seems a strange qualification for a high jump coach, but Randall was also a high jumper at the school level. He has combined his experience as a footballer, his knowledge of high jump as well as some research to fashion his daughter into a world-class athlete.
Vashti speaks fondly about her equation with her father.
“It’s not just a father-daughter relationship. We’re friends. And because of that, sometimes I cross the line and then I remember he’s also my coach. We’ve travelled a lot together and it’s been great,” she said.
DeAnna, who had the Polish hammer thrower Joanna Fiodorow breathing down her neck during the final on Saturday, looked to her husband for help. Just a nod from Lambert seemed to have done the trick as the US athlete pulled off an amazing effort to win the gold.
“We read each other’s signals very well. It gave me that confidence when I just looked in his eyes and he said, ‘Let’s go,’” she said.
Former sprinter Jacques Borlee, who is in Doha as coach of Belgium’s relay teams, had trained his daughter Olivia at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. She was a member of the gold-medal winning 4x100M relay team. She has since retired, but he is now coaching his sons Kevin and Dylan who are part of the relay teams. He explained how easy it was to coach a family member.
“It’s easier than coaching other athletes as you know your children very well. You know their likes and dislikes, what motivates them and what does not. Only if a coach knows what’s going on in an athlete’s mind can he or she get the best out of them,” said Borlee.