17 FEB 2009 General News

Beijing distance races analysed at 100m intervals

Two-time Olympic 10,000m champion, Kenenisa Bekele (Getty Images)Two-time Olympic 10,000m champion, Kenenisa Bekele (Getty Images) © Copyright

The Beijing Olympics threw up a huge amount of statistics, too much in fact to take in at the time of the Games. Now we have had a chance to disseminate a unique set of readings taken during virtually all of the distance races.

For a decade we have seen distance runners register times from transponder mats at strategic lap and kilometre points in road and cross country races. In Beijing, a new system developed yielded times for every distance runner at every 100m.

Transponder antennae were laid under the track at 0m, 100m, 200m and 300m. Athlete wore chips on the inside of their front bib numbers, and when they crossed the transponder threshold, a time was registered.

So for instance we can now see 100 different times for Kenenisa Bekele during his 10,000m triumph. From his 14.1 opening 100m to his blistering final lap including 13.0 down the final back straight. Arguably more impressive was the 14.0 timing by Tirunesh Dibaba during the bell lap of her 10,000m. For that section she was moving faster than any women in Beijing at any distance above 800m.

Of course these figures cannot tell the whole story of the race. We can’t tell for instance how wide an athlete was running around a bend between the transponder points. But they do help to show how the race was won.

For example Rashid Ramzi seems to have clinched the 1500m gold on the last bend which he covered in 12.2 in his heat and 12.6 in the final. Asbel Kiprop was quicker than Ramzi in the homestraight, but he appeared to lose too much ground in the previous 100.

Sadly, there was no study of the Beijing sprints, so hopefully Usain Bolt can do it all again once the next level of timing analysis is available.

Split times were also provided for the Olympic 4x400m relays where much the fastest times came from athletes who did not win individual golds in Beijing – Jeremy Wariner and Allyson Felix.

Mark Butler for the IAAF

NOTE: To download and view the timing data (pdf format) decribed in this article please see ‘Related Content’ under photograph