Bayano Kamani competing in Helsinki 2005 (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
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Kamani – Beijing and beyond

He wasn’t born in Panama but Bayano Kamani has made his adopted country very proud since he came to decision of representing it after 2002. Now the 25-year-old, who was born in Houston, Texas, has Olympic (Athens, 5th) and World Championship (Helsinki, 7th) finals under his belt, and even though he has yet to make it to the medal podium, standing 5th on the IAAF World Rankings for the 400m Hurdles, he has already left a great impression on the discipline.

Influenced by Hart, Brabham, Smith, and now, Douglas & Silva

But what is the story behind this man of two flags? Kamani tells us in his own words…

“My beginnings in track were at the age of 10. My sister was involved, and I became involved too. That was in Missouri City, just outside of Houston, Texas. Throughout high school, I kept improving local and state records, and then a scholarship took me to Baylor University, in Waco, Texas.”

“A common problem for young athletes who do hurdles is the transition from 300m to 400m. That wasn’t a problem for me at all, since I was looking forward to run the “official” distance. As a junior I ran 48.68 in 1999, and then I focused on the 2000 Olympic Trials, but I got sick before the event, and didn’t do well at all.”

“During my years at Baylor, I was coached by Clyde Hart and Dan Brabham. Coach Hart worked with all quarter-milers, and Bravo was the hurdles coach.”

“My last year of eligibility was 2001, but I graduated in Management in Information and Systems in 2002. Then I switched coaches to John Smith and the HSI group in Los Angeles, but things didn’t go well in that year. Even I learned a lot from John, things didn’t work out. I had problems with getting into good meets, and I could develop any rhythm or confidence.”

“Since 2003 I have trained with Joe Douglas at the Santa Monica Track Club. Joe is also my manager, and my hurdles coach is Larry Silva. Among my training partners are Sherman Armstrong and Kyle Erickson.”

A Panamanian at heart

“My family is a huge track family. They love the sport. My dad is from Panama, my mom from Barbados, and along the years they have become really involved. Right now, my mom, who is also a coach, works at the National Scholastic Foundation in the US, helping the developing of new talents.”

“Before the 2000 US Olympic Trials, my father brought up the idea of running for Panama. Even though I hadn’t had the chance of going there by then, I always felt Panamanian, because of him and my grandfather, who were born in Panama.”

“Right now I feel very proud of making that decision, because I was able to feel the impact that I caused in my country with my performances, especially at the Olympic Games. That was a great reward, and a great tribute to my family.”

“I feel totally Panamanian, and I feel more Panamanian every time I go back there, and I get to visit schools, and to bring my experiences to the young kids of the nation.”

Relaxing to an Athenian rhythm

“Being at the Olympics was a great emotion, but I knew it was a decisive year. I was in the last year of my contract with Nike, and I knew I had to do well. My event is all about rhythm and confidence, and those 2 things were back by then.”

“I remember talking to Félix Sánchez before the first round, and I remember he told me to go out and relax, because I had the talent, and others were feeling that I was capable of running fast. That was crucial. I ran a personal best at the semifinals, but I couldn’t fight for a medal at the final. I got lane 2, and I went out too fast...”

13 strides up to the sixth is the key

“For 2005 we focused on changing my stride pattern with my coach Larry Silva to 13. We know that’s the key for this event, and the main goal now is to keep it up to the sixth hurdle. Once that was done, my confidence started to improve again, and kept on growing with the season.”

“That’s how I got to Helsinki. At the semifinals, I knew it was going to be tough, because only the top 2 were guaranteed a spot in the final.”

“Running under 48 was a big relief, but I couldn’t celebrate, because we had one more race to go. I feel I wasn’t totally rewarded because I couldn’t do in the final, but I’m glad I did it, because it’s a milestone that only a few have achieved.”

“In the final I had a bad race. It was a tough day also, because of the poor weather. It was pouring rain, and we had to change the schedule and the warm up. I stumbled at the sixth hurdle, and lost the race there. I felt a cramp, I felt the rest of the guys go, and I couldn’t recover.”

Credit for Jackson…don’t count out Sanchez

“It was an amazing final, and Bershawn Jackson deserves a lot of credit for running 47.24 in those conditions. In a normal day he should have been under-47 seconds, without a doubt.”

“2006 it’s going to be a challenging year. Now I’m a married man, and with my wife, Tiffany, we are expecting our first child for 7 January. Things will be different, but if anything, I will run faster! Training is going well and I just have to stay healthy”.

“Our event has a great future. There are some young talented kids coming up, but I don’t think we should count Félix (Sanchez) out. I saw the way his foot was in Helsinki, and it’s amazing that he was able to run in those conditions and even make it to the final.”

“I’m hoping to be at my top form at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, but those things are hard to predict. My goal is to keep on improving every year, and I hope to bring out the best Kamani by then, but you never know... I might be even better in 2009!”

Eduardo Biscayart for the IAAF

Bayano Kamani
Born in Houston, Texas, 17 April 1980. Represents Panama since 2003. Major in Management of Information and Systems at Baylor University. 2 times NCAA Champion (2000-01); South American Champion 2003

Progression at 400m Hurdles: 1996- 51.71, 1997- 50.82, 1998- 49.86, 1999- 48.68, 2000- 48.43, 2001- 48.99, 2002- 50.05, 2003- 49.82, 2004- 48.23, 2005- 47.84.

Top 10 times at 400m Hurdles:
47.84 AR 2s1 WCh Helsinki 07.08.05
48.23 2s3 OG Athína 24.08.04
48.24 5 WAF Montecarlo 19.09.04
48.30 1 VD Bruxelles 03.09.04
48.36 1r1 Athle Lausanne 05.07.05
48.43 2 NCAA Durham, NC 02.06.00
48.49 2 WK Zürich 19.08.05
48.55 1 ISTAF Berlin 12.09.04
48.57 2 GP Rieti 28.08.05
48.61 1rB WK Zürich 06.08.04