Let’s face it, the new swimming suits have helped demolish world records at a record pace (no pun intended).
By comparison, the average age of Track and Field World Record was 8 years 11 months for men and 14 years 9 months for women.
With a lot of women world records out of reach (honestly, who’s going to break Flo-Jo’s 10.49?), it’s no wonder the pole vault gathers so much attention. Pamela Jelimo is creating a new interest in the women’s 800 meters as she appears to be the only one capable of breaking the world record.
The problem is the average Track and Field audience only wants to see world records or Usain Bolt, just like the high scoring offence of American Football and Basketball. They want to see action! Hockey and Baseball has gained more popularity with the increase number of scoring (whether by rule changes or performance enhancing drugs)
That’s why Soccer (or Football to the rest of the world) will never take off in North America, David Beckem or no David Beckem.
What has been done to help Track and Field World Records?
Let’s take a quick look.
Changes in Track and Field… for Better or Worse
FAT timing – this made times slower as you have to add 0.24 to a hand time
Javelin – made shorter, thus throwers are chasing a ghost record. Eventually, they will catch up, and then what? Shorten it again to a toothpick?
Harder Tracks – Tracks are harder (and faster) with the Atlanta 1996 Olympics being one of the hardest tracks known at the time. The track no longer exists as it was torn down to become the current baseball stadium for the Atlanta Braves.
Starting Blocks – sensors to detect reaction times faster than 0.100 are disqualified, speakers are installed to ensure a fair start (or use a silent gun), and the high blocks that prevent your heel from giving a calf stretch reflex. We’ve come a long way with starting blocks.
Hammer Throw – eventually, we’ll need to contest this event outside the main stadium, or someone will get seriously hurt! You might as well add the Javelin to it.
10,000 meter Track – Water stations have been added during hot ambient temperatures.
Steeplechase – spectators like to watch the water jump for all the splashes, but now some of the Kenyans and Ethiopians are hurdling the water jump to stay dry! That’s 12 feet of clearance! Amazing leg strength, if you ask me.
Lane 9 – since 8 athletes advance to the Finals in major meets, it is not uncommon to see Lanes 2 through 9 being used. This helps with a greater curvature and thus a faster time. Nobody likes Lane 1 for the 200m. I’ll take Lane 8 any day for a 200 meters.
Shot Put – the change from glide to spin seems to help, and is becoming more popular, but the current WR still used the old technique. Check out the shot put world record form the Complete Videos of Track and Field World Records.
Pole Vault – Materials have changed over the years to provide a slingshot effect.
High Jump – Brill Bend. Fosbury Flop. 1968. Enough said.
Foam Mattress – No doubt, the High Jump and Pole Vault both benefited with a safer landing area. And yes, Dick Fosbury started flopping into a sand pit head first! He landed on his shoulders, and rolled.
Did I miss any?