DNA makes its indoor debut
31 January 2021
Despite an enforced absence from the competition calendar in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Dynamic New Athletics (DNA) returned to the spotlight with a successful event at the Spanish national indoor inter-clubs meeting in Valencia on Saturday (30).
It was the first time a DNA match has been staged undercover, with the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation (RFEA) demonstrating the flexibility of the format by adapting the competition programme to embrace the principle features that define DNA including mixed-gender teams, a compact timetable of selected disciplines and one event taking place at a time.
The Playas de Castellón club – one of Spain’s leading clubs in recent years – ran out winners in the senior contest, clinching their victory in the Luis Puig Velodrome – the venue for the 1998 European Athletics Championships and the World Athletics Indoor Championships a decade later – after a dominating performance in the final event, The Hunt.
Going into The Hunt, a mixed-gender medley relay, with a lead of just four points – which translated into an advantage of 1.33 seconds – Playas finished the race more than three seconds ahead of their nearest rivals, thanks in no small part to a devasting four laps of the track by their locally-based Burundian international Eric Nzikwinkunda.
“Wow, what an exciting new format. I had lots of fun. I think we all did. The new rules, especially in the field events, are a great innovation,” said the Playas captain Carmen Ramos, the Spanish international heptathlete giving DNA her team’s seal of approval after receiving a winner’s cheque for €1500.
Both the senior and U18 competitions saw a combination of events that included three traditional track races – men’s 60m, women’s 400m and 60m hurdles in the senior competition – and three field events held under the special DNA head-to-head rules, which were introduced at the 2019 European Games in Minsk: the men’s long jump and shot put, and women’s high jump.
These six events delivered points for positions and, in turn, this total and the difference between the six participating teams was transformed into a time advantages for the staggered start of the seventh and final event, The Hunt, which in Valencia comprised a women’s 1000m followed by a men’s 800m, a women’s 600m and finally a men’s 400m.
Given the prevailing situation with Covid in Spain, the Valencia competition was held under the strictest sanitary conditions, sadly without any spectators and with all athletes and other personal required to take quick antigen tests before being allowed the enter the main part of the stadium.
The use of face masks was mandatory throughout the day except when competing and there were extended hygiene protocols for cleaning and disinfection of the competition equipment and the arena as a whole.
Nevertheless, the competition was a resounding success and showed that the DNA concept, developed over four years by European Athletics to appeal to new audiences, especially young people, can be adapted to all competition levels and situations, and surmount even the challenges of the current pandemic.
“I saw how the competition worked at the European Games in Minsk. I was very enthusiastic about bringing it to Spain and could see the possibilities of how it could work indoors,” said RFEA President and European Athletics Council member Raul Chapado.
“Even in this situation, we had an exciting competition and I can’t wait for us to stage DNA competitions when we can have spectators in the stadium and watch the energy levels rise.”
In October last year the European Commission awarded the RFEA €300,000 to develop DNA for use in schools and clubs. The project, which is called Jungle Athletics, will include the creation of a smartphone app, a national competition programme and international conference.
Earlier on Saturday, Alcampo Scorpio 71 from Zaragoza won a mixed U20/U18/U16 competition using the same format. Starting The Hunt just five points– 1.66 seconds – in front of Playas, the Scopio 71 medley relay quartet never gave their opponents a chance of reeling them in and ran out winners by more than six seconds.
The competition showed off the talents of some of Spain’s top teenagers, several of whom can look forward to competing at the European Athletics U18 and U20 Championships this summer.
A special mention should be made of one athlete who might have to wait a few years before competing on the international stage, 13-year-old Anastasia Lopez who sped to a 60m win in a personal best 7.83 and beat sprinters up to two years older than herself.