Every 4 years, the whole world focuses on the Olympics in particular Track and Field (or Athletics as it’s called everywhere else in the world)
Especially the 100 meters.
However, everyone including the media loves controversy!
On the eve of the 100 meters showdown between Asafa Powell, Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay, check out these three headlines in the past month:
Olympic Sprinters Nearest Starting Gun Get Advantage
Yahoo News – Scientists studied reaction times of sprinters in two races at the 2004 Olympics and found that those closest to the starter had significantly faster reaction times out of the blocks. The average reaction time for sprinters in lane 1, nearest the gun, was 160 milliseconds. The average time for all other lanes combined as 175 milliseconds.
Canada.com – University of Alberta scientists have found that the sprinters who start closest to the starter’s pistol tend to bolt out of their blocks ahead of competitors further away. In effect, the louder the noise in the ear, the quicker the start.
ABC News – These extra boosts may amount to more than a tenth of a second in some races, which is easily enough to make the difference between gold and silver. It can take 150 milliseconds longer for sound to travel from the starter’s gun to runners in the outside lanes in races such as the 4 x 100 metre relay, where the runners’ starting positions are staggered.
Yawn. This is old news.
The Olympic starting gun and starting blocks controversy was covered in the Track and Field News Newsletter in 2001: Did Sydney Starting Blocks Rob Mo Greene of an Olympic Record?
This was followed by a couple of posts in their Forum in 2004:
USA men’s 4×100 probably robbed by defective starting system and The Screwy Olympic Starting System
…and again in 2005:
The Flawed Athens Starting System
I guess we can’t get enough of a good thing.
With loudspeakers installed behind the athlete on each starting block, you can assure everyone will have a fair start, as long as you don’t react to the gun faster than 0.100 seconds. Human physiology dictates a speed of neurons anywhere from 0.120 to 0.140 seconds, so the IAAF arbitrarily chose a nice even number of 0.100 seconds.
However, this is not the case in the Olympics where the traditional starting gun is used.
Other Technological Advantages or Disadvantages?
Individuals may have super lightweight spikes and custom running speed suits which can shave a few hundredths of a second.
But everyone will have the same track surface and wind conditions, and the first person to cross the line will win the 100 meters, and be crowned “The World’s Fastest Man”.
Unless, of course, someone wins the 200 meters and 400 meters in the same Olympics and decide to call himself “The World’s Fastest Man”. Shades of 1996 come to mind.
Let the Games begin.