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Elias Del Valle

This gentleman from Cartagena is 39 years old, of which he dedicated 16 to educate, train and manage some of the most thriving skaters in the World. His knowledge, winning attitude and skills contributed to Colombia’s place in speedskating’s world, getting during this decade six world championships in senior and junior ranks: Barrancabermeja 2000; Bélgica 2002, Venezuela 2003, Italia 2004, China 2005 and Korea 2006.

Mr Del Valle applied his studies in business management to Colombia’s National Team for quite a while: add to the equation his methodic investigation and planning, plus an engaging leadership and lots of patience…. And you’ll might be as successful as him.

You manage about
50% of the best athletes in the world. Does that make you the best coach in the world?
Usually, results are what define somebody’s work, what position themselves onto a ranking. Colombia has been on top of the ranking for more than four consecutive years, so results speak for themselves and they say much more than I would ever be able to say about them.
Highly developed sports mark a precise line between sprinters and long distance athletes. We have instead “phenomenoms” like Joey Mantia, capable of performing well in every distance: shouldn’t we start a real specialization in skating?
Well, Joey is winning almost every competition because, besides his talent, he has great intelligence to race handling the opposition to his advantage. But in my opinion, the general direction of the sport should be towards the specialization. We must work to achieve true specialization. For instance, on time trials a complete champion like Joey might be on the podium, but in the end, only the true sprinter will get the gold.
Ok, and when do you think the athletes should start their specialization?
Whenever they achieve their biological maturity, from 16-17 years old. Before that, to me it doesn't make any sense.
When do you win a time trial: in the first 100 meters or in the last 100 meters?
Any moment you could win…or loose it! If you don’t have a good start, you’ll not be able to reach the necessary final acceleration; if you don’t have a good initial acceleration you’ll not be able to sustain the final sprint, if your final sprint is not good enough, you’ll loose precious fractions of a second…

In other words, the slightest mistake costs you the race…
Exactly. If you carefully study Duggento on banked track, for instance, you’ll see that he has the best start and initial launching, but he is not that comfortable in the corners. That’s not a problem for him in the road track, where he can display all his power.

In fact, when you guys started years ago, you copied the Italian model… Now you set the standard. A couple of years ago you told me that Colombia’s objective was to create the “Colombian model”: did you mean a technique model, a style, or a general template that the whole sport could benefit from?
About style, I always say that everyone should have their own personal style. Now, regarding sporting methodology, it has strong relations with the culture and society where it is applied. There are many studies about physiology, training programs, or scientific works based on athletes that developed in a well defined environment and society. What we did actually was to adapt to our environment, society and culture all that knowledge. And obviously it worked well for us!
Right, but what I meant was this: at worlds you’ll see a bunch of Koreans (male, female, senior, junior) skating in unison, all with exactly the same technique. Shouldn’t we all attain something like that, a common skating model?
Technique has to be the same for all, just like walking. When walking, one coordinates arms and legs in a certain way, which will be determined by the physical structure, morphology and personal style. In skating, it should be the same.
Sure. Nowadays, it seems fashionable between coaches to assign their work the following proportions: 70% technique, 20% physical condition, 10% psychology. Do you agree?
I’d rather see it this way: while competing it’s 60% psychology, 30% physical condition and 20% technique. While training, we should apply 70% technique and 40% physical condition. (NR: he passed over 10%! Was it intentional?).
Double push: can girls really do it? Some coaches say it’s not possible (blaming the infamous “Q angle” and other considerations)
We have double push the moment one skate is pronating and the other one is supinating, having a simultaneous thrust. When that movement is automatized and the coordination is adequate, girls can do it very well. In fact: have a look at Andrea Gonzales, and forget that silly theory.
Among the Colombian team: who do you thrive to put in line, girls or boys?
Oh, in our national team everyone behaves! We have no discipline problems, really. If you ever visit us during training sessions, you’ll see that everything is done seriously and in an organized fashion. Of course, being young guys they can be a bit mischievous at times, but it’s a “disciplined mischievousness”. Now, when they are concentrating, it’s an entirely different matter: they give 100% and take things very gravely, as it should always be.
Fine. Now, name 3 coaches that deserve your respect and admiration:
I can cite somebody right now, but I can name three schools of thought that I admire a lot: the American way of working, their constant search for performance and ideal preparation. I’ve been also observing with attention the Korean method, and of course I can’t avoid mentioning Italians, that were pioneers in many aspects and show us the way to further development in our sport.

Yeah, but they’re rather pined away lately, aren’t they?
That’s what happen when politics and emotions interfere with the sport. High level sport is made by results, but to get results great support is needed… Evidently something’s wrong over there!

Hey Martignon: eat this!

The illustrious kiwi coach Bill Begg >>affirms that sex before competitions is excellent, especially for girls. Do you agree?
Absolutely! I just hope Bill does not send some of his girls to “boycott” my boys before their races!
Recently there was a coaches’ congress in Rome >>: shouldn’t we have more of these?
Yes, but I guess that rather than seminars and conferences, we should constitute a permanent study forum for coaches, in which to expose our actual training situations, our day-by-day problems and possible solutions, and to exchange knowledge at all levels.
Well said! How about starting it from Cali’s Worlds?
Of course!
By the way, another good reason not to miss Cali’s appointment: is it true that the city has the largest percentage of beautiful women in the world?
Not only Cali: the whole country!
Ok, mister: we’ll check it by ourselves. Catch you there in august!


Aurélie Bouvet
Nicole Begg