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Athletics by the numbers

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Lisa Dobriskey was criticised for her tactics but micro-timing shows she would have struggled to win a meda

BBC Sport statistician Mark Butler has written the first of a new series of columns on the numbers behind the big races.

He takes a look at a revolutionary timing system that reveals the tactics behind success in Olympic track finals.

Among the highlights:

> A fast back straight, rather than finishing burst, clinched victory in many races.

> Britain's Lisa Dobriskey may not have made the tactical error many believed in finishing fourth in the 1500m.

> Women's 10,000m champion Tirunesh Dibaba ran a section faster than Britain's Mo Farah in his heat of the men's 5,000m.

Have a look at the column here:
news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/ath...

Mark will come on this thread to answer any questions you have and he is also keen to hear any ideas you have for future columns so let us know what you think.

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posted Jan 28, 2009

Interesting article and I await the results of the shorter races. I can't help thinking that the fastest 100m split will be in the middle of the race somewhere -irrespective of(or maybe because of) the bend! I am sure that I read soemwhere that the fastest 100 metres was Michael Johnson in that 200m race.
Second point....with all the available technology is it not possible to superimpose runners from different eras so that we can see where they were at different points. Fascinating to see Johnson versus Usain Bolt! It has been done with downhill skiing a few years ago!

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posted Jan 29, 2009

Agreed Englandman, Dobriskey wasn't as tactically astute as Holmes, but I do think the figures show that things were not quite as bad as they looked. Lisa herself said she felt she would not have finished as quickly had she attempted to cover the break of Jamal and Lagat. In any case she had kept eventual bronze medallist Tobias within range throughout the race, yet actually lost ground to the Ukrainian in the final 200m with a 29.3 compared with 28.9 by Tobias. Donít forget that the Beijing silver medallist Lishchynska also went on to hold Dobriskey at bay in the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart. The two Ukrainians are fine athletes and it was no disgrace to lose to them.

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posted Jan 29, 2009

Sorry to disappoint, but there was no sprint analysis in Beijing. It is to be hoped that we will have more data at future championships.

fastfanOFsport, I know it would be quite a bit more difficult because you would need nine more antennae laid under the track surface to take times every 10m during a 100m race. I heard from the project manager that this aspect was the most difficult part of the process. But I agree that the data gained would be valuable.

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posted Jan 29, 2009

Fo me, the interesting thing was simply to see, regardless of tactics, exactly how fast the 100m distance was being covered across a range of events. I would think quite a lot of people can relate to that distance having raced it at a school sports day. So yes KeepitReal, it was somewhat "mind-boggling" to see that people could move more quickly during a race than many of us are able to do so from scratch.

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posted Jan 29, 2009

This is really interesting. Is this data publically available? If so, where can I find it?

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posted Jan 29, 2009

Interesting (and very relevant)comment from SpanishMemberName. I used to do a bit of road running (not at a high level I'll add!) and found that the second half of my 10k races were a match for my 5k race times.

In fact, my ideal 5k race should have involved a race-pace warm-up over the course, arriving back at the start / finish just in time for the gun..!

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posted Jan 29, 2009

covbartles

you need to visiy utube type in johnson v bolt there is gost race of both WR runs imposed into one, not best quality but still ok

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posted Jan 29, 2009

I think Lisa should be more disappointed about who beat her and by what means they took to achieve their performances prior to the games rather than during the final.

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posted Jan 29, 2009

I would love to look at this information...anyone know where I can get it?

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posted Jan 30, 2009

We know that the 200 metres is a faster race than the 100m or 400m. But what would be the optimum distance for the fastest possible race?

A hard question to answer unless we get atheletes running lots of different distances, but I wonder what your theory would be.

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