Technology Makes A Farce Of Sprints

Hair-trigger timing and human error combine for a sprinter’s nightmare

Steve Cram
Tuesday January 31, 2006
The Guardian

The 2006 athletics season did not get off to the best of starts in Glasgow at the weekend. In fact it was something of a joke.

Though athletes actually produced some eye-catching performances in the Kelvin Hall the performance of the starting mechanism and those operating it suggested somebody needs to indulge in some serious training or at least have the sensors checked.

A fair start in sprinting - indoor in particular - is essential but the sensitivity of the system too often leaves the field a little bare of participants.

For those whose knowledge of the false-start rule lags marginally behind their understanding of the offside law, suffice to say the field as a whole gets one chance to transgress, then it’s a red card for any subsequent offender.

The problem is that the technology has become so good at spotting movement as fine as a lace falling loose that early baths are often waiting for those who have yet to break sweat.

At times two or three lonely souls have been left to race and the day can’t be far away when all eight competitors are disqualified and the prizes awarded to the computer and starter.

On Saturday, after some plain ridiculous disqualifications, the human element of the starting process decided to intervene.

The result was a blatantly absurd decision that tried to redress the balance but succeeded only in adding to the confusion.

The Olympic 100m champion :confused: Veronica Campbell false started to such an extent that it could have been measured on a sun dial :stuck_out_tongue: . She survived because of the attempt to introduce common sense.

It resulted in one of the afternoon’s biggest stars benefiting from a severe outbreak of human error. She is known as VC to her pals and she certainly deserved a medal, or perhaps an Oscar, for her skilful ignorance of the incident in her post-race interview.

It is, of course, not Campbell’s responsibility to ensure a fair start but had this been a championship race a stewards’ inquiry would have been called for.

Technology is essential in high level sport when margins are so fine but it is making a farce of indoor sprinting at the moment. :slight_smile:

Starting is a skill to be honed by the athlete but it is also incumbent on those administering it that they do not nullify that skill.

Watch out for GPS positioning to be the future determinant of the offside trap - just watch Thierry Henry beat that.

Thankfully the starter could do nothing to hold up Jason Gardener; indeed neither could his competitors, as is invariably the case on the indoor circuit.
He followed up his win in Glasgow with another sharp performance in Germany on Sunday with an even quicker time, putting him top of the world lists so far this winter.

For Gardener, though, the temptation to take yet another indoor medal at the world championships in Moscow in March has been superseded by the unfulfilled desire to win a medal in the real world, namely the 100m.

So he will curtail his 60m dashing and head for Australia knowing that the likelihood of him winning a Commonwealth Games medal may depend on him finding the sort of sustained speed that saw him run under 10 seconds more than five years ago.

The world record holder Asafa Powell awaits, along with a host of African and Caribbean sprinters who consistently break 10 seconds. In stark contrast to Gardener, Powell began his season at the weekend with a 400m race in Jamaica, a marathon by sprinters’ standards.

Despite Powell’s well documented big-match frailties the task for Gardener would seem immense, based on past performance.

The Bath Bullet is one of the most likeable and approachable athletes in the sport, balancing his ambition and private life to good effect.

However, the 30-year-old must know that this season may represent his last chance finally to own a medal crafted in daylight. It may be that his best opportunity will come in the summer’s European championships but that’s where his future challengers will come to the fore.

Gardener, Mark Lewis-Francis and Marlon Devonish, representing the old guard, will face serious competition for team places from a pack of youngsters in a hurry to get their chance. Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, Alex Nelson, Craig Pickering, Simeon Williamson and others are all talented young men just as capable of denying Gardener his ultimate goal as any sprinter from France or the US.

There would be no more popular winner of a 100m title than Gardener but it is likely that this summer will be the last opportunity he’ll have, because not even the starting-marks men will keep those youngsters resting in their blocks.

What kind of fu§§ing journalist blabla is this?
I could not watch the meet so I’ve got no idea what they are talking about.

Can’t they just tell us who was disqualified and why and who wasn’t and why?

I do not know the force a piece of lace applies falling to the ground, but the sensor in the blocks measures 25 kg (or was that changed)and times smaller than 0.1 secs.
If that is measured as exact as possible I can’ find anything wrong.

The problem is the false start rule itself that one gets punished for another competitors failure.
That’s it.

Sorry, KK insulting you is not intended, it’s just the journalists always writing garbage about athl. getting me mad.

There seemed to be some kind of problem with the equipment, as athletes got penalised for non-apparent false starts. The first televised race was 60mH W, where S.Claxton (UK) was penalised twice in a row and straight after the Italian hurdler got out; in replay none of these athletes seem to move. The “human element” of the article refers to the decision made when it came to Veronica Campbell, who clearly false-started, but she was allowed to race as normal and come second -perhaps her support for Scotland’s bid helped :slight_smile:

Is it THE Steve Cram?

I am pretty sure of this. He was also one of the commentators for the meeting.

There is only one Steve Cram. But crammy’s copy might have been “edited” or perhaps “should” have been edited so that his point is clear. Nik interprets the article as did I. But like you Aut I haven’t seen what Crammy is writing about and it was a bit confusing. I just thought that because I only took a moment to “skim” his article, perhaps I had missed something. Anyway, I know the start rule remains a vexing issue for many, so I decided to cut and paste it here. kk (Aut, no offense taken)

In this particular instance, I think, the faulty equipment in Kelvin Hall was his main issue rather than the new rule.
Also, I don’t get his “attack” on J. Gardener, why is this his last chance EVER? Anyway…