The perfect start
With Usain Bolt sensationally disqualified from the 100m final and Britain's Dwain Chambers and Christine Ohuruogu among several other high-profile names to be red-carded after jumping the gun, these Worlds have been dubbed 'the false-start championships' by some here in South Korea.
While hardly the catchiest of monikers, it reflects the fact that all the talk around the sprint events has been of the action on the blocks, rather than at the finish line.
So how to produce the perfect sprint start? How to handle the tension of a world final, the clanging nerves, the chest-thumping rivals looking to mess with your mind?
Seeking answers before Bolt's 200m final on Saturday evening, I took a stroll with Darren Campbell - Olympic 200m silver medallist, world bronze medallist in 2003 and European 100m champion 13 years ago.
"First, the myth: there is no such thing as the ideal start," says Campbell, in Daegu as an expert summariser for BBC Radio 5 live.
"You have to find what works for you as an athlete, and what matches the strengths of your body.
"Usain Bolt has a very long stride for a sprinter. That helps him when he's into his running, but creates a problem at the start when he can't get his legs out. So he has to find the best way to get his legs out from that very compact crouch position.
"That means he tries to keep as compact as he can and minimise the amount of rocking or movement from side to side. Once he has created that initial momentum then he can access his real strength, which is the length of his stride.
"Usain has to be relaxed to make that work, which is why he messes about on the blocks. Maurice Greene was the complete opposite.
"When Greene was on the blocks there was always a tremendous amount of tension through his whole body. That was because he used power to get out of the blocks. It was the polar opposite to Bolt, but those completely different approaches work the same way for them."
The big problems, and how to deal with them
"Maurice used to walk round the call-room, staring out all the other sprinters," remembers Campbell.
"You'd all be sitting down, and he would stand in front of you until you looked up and then flex his muscles until you looked away. If you didn't look up he'd start making this grunting noise until you did.
"Linford Christie knew that his mental advantage was that he was in better physical shape than anyone else. His physique was what could intimidate people.
"So he would walk round the warm-up track with his top off, so everyone could see how good he looked. There was nowhere to hide, so everyone had to watch him."
Linford Christie was disqualified in the 1996 Olympics 100m final for two false starts. Photo: Getty
How does a sprinter deal with such alpha-male displays of aggression from his stellar arrivals?
"What I would do at certain times was lie on the track and look up at the sky, so I wasn't seeing what Maurice Greene and the rest were doing," says Campbell.
"If you're feeling intimidated, you're not focused. So you need to find out what helps you focus, and to break free of the others' antics."
Before most big sprint finals, the thousands of spectators are asked by the stadium announcer to be as quiet as they can.
It doesn't always work. Excitement triggers whoops and screams. In Daegu, the acoustics round the 400m starts have reportedly made it harder for the athletes in lanes four to six to hear the starter's instructions. So how does someone like Bolt deal with the distractions of noise?
"There are some stadiums and countries where the crowd don't appreciate what they're watching or what they should and shouldn't do, so they might be clapping a field event when you're settling on your blocks," says Campbell.
"That's where you hope the starter will step in and tell you to stand up.
"In a World or Olympic final all your senses are all heightened, including your hearing. The only way you can deal with it is to get in the zone, as Linford used to say.
"That means you'll be in the subconscious, just reacting without thought to the gun. If you're conscious mind is dominant you'll be aware of too many things, telling yourself REACT REACT REACT and so much less likely to do everything else you have to do."
Some fear that a similar Bolt disqualification at London 2012 could scar memories of the Games. Photo: Getty
Bolt's false-start in the 100m was blamed by some on a twitch from the man in the lane outside him, his training partner Yohan Blake.
How easy is it to be triggered from your blocks by the tiniest movement from the athlete outside you?
"It's the hardest thing of all to deal with," says Campbell. "When you're up in the 'set' position, you're ready to explode."
He demonstrates by playing a game of the old playground favourite Slapsies, when you place your closed palms against the fingertips of your opponent and attempt to slap their hands before they can react.
A slap represents a great start from the blocks, a flinch in response to an opponent's dummy a false-start after a twitch.
"When you're primed to react, it only takes the slightest hint of movement to make you jump."
Two sore hands later, I understand his point clearly. But what of the effect of the starters themselves? They're the ones who determine when the athletes should go to their blocks, how quickly they should settle and how long to hold them in the 'set' position.
"When you're running at club level you can watch particular starters in action and work out how they like to do it, how long they're likely to keep you at 'set'.
"Even when you start doing the international circuit you can get familiar with the protocols they use in different countries - for example, in France they quite like a short 'set-BANG' rhythm, so you could actually anticipate it.
"The more important the race, the more important a good starter. The best one in the world is the Geordie Alan Bell. All sprinters know that a race started by Alan or anyone trained up by him will be a well-handled race."
In Bolt's 200m heats he had a slower reaction time from his blocks than all but one of his 53 rivals. Was this a result of his 100m disaster, the possibility of a second false-start too ghastly to risk?
"Tension can affect you in different ways," believes Campbell.
"It will generally have the biggest effect on the person who needs the biggest start. It will tighten the muscles, and when your muscles are tight they don't function to their optimum. Yet perversely you can become most tense if you're worried about your start.
"Tension can sometimes help. In those cases it's not stress tension, or an adverse tension, but something that allows you to react - an athletic poised, the definition of being ready.
"You never want to be under-relaxed, and you never want to be over-relaxed. That's vital."
The most important thing of all?
"Do not go to your blocks with any negativity.
"Negativity will create all manner of problems. Clear your mind, focus on what you need to do and believe."