Sunday, August 17, 2008

Don't Ever Give Up!

I know I've mentioned recently how much I enjoy the Olympics. One thing that always amazes me is the level of competition. I find it very hard to comprehend how the competitors can always be getting so much faster and stronger. World Records at the Olympics are pushed around like they are meaningless. How long can people continue to destroy these records? Is there no lower limit to the times that the competitors can put up?

For example, consider the 100 m dash. Before the final race I predicted that Usain Bolt would win the race with a time of 9.69 seconds. This was a new world record by 3 hundredths of a second. I was right on with my prediction (feel free to check with Alison), but he could have run so much faster. With 20 meters to go he was already celebrating with his arms out, looking side to side and pounding his chest. Another prediction: sometime soon he'll easily surpass this time (Consider that the race in Beijing was held with no headwind or tailwind, Almost all of the previous world records were set with tailwinds in place).

Obviously, one of the most exciting things to watch has been Michael Phelps' miraculous run. He is the greatest Olympian of all time. Al an I have been Tivo-ing the Olympics every night and we'll start watching after they've been going for an hour or two. This method has its pros and cons. On the one hand, we don't have to watch the commercials. On the other, we're up far later at night than we would like to be. How can we miss all these good races?

The lesson to take from Phelp's seventh gold medal race is to "Never give up." With 4 feet to go, Phelps is apparently 3 feet behind (He is on the left in the picture below). His decision to swim hard to the finish allowed him to win another gold medal by 1 one-hundredth of a second. Amazing.


Sabrina said...

We love the Olympics at our house too and Phelps is absolutely amazing to watch. We have the exact same problem with the tivo-ing. We've been up way past midnight multiple nights in a row. And, while I am almost always falling asleep on the couch while watching I keep on doing it night after night.

JTENMAN said...

That was an inspirational post Tyler. Thanks! That was a sweet race and I don't know how Phelps won that. His 8 golds will be more than at least half of the countries will win. That is insane.

Clark said...

In sprints, world records can not be set if head/tail winds are too strong. The results from such races simply don't count towards records. Tyson Gay ran the 100m in 9.68 at the Olympic trials in June, but that didn't count as a world record because of the tail wind. In the case of Usain Bolt in these games, there was a very slight tail wind, and he actually crossed the line in 9.68 seconds. That time was then very slightly adjusted to 9.69 seconds which is what he would have run without that slight tail wind.

tysqui said...

Clark, I'm interested in where you got your information from. From what I can tell the tail wind for the 100 m final is officially listed at 0.0 mps (the upper limit for tailwinds in world record races is 2.0 mps). I've also never heard of the times being adjusted because of the wind. I thought they were adjusted according to rounding errors (i.e. the timer at the finish line showed 9.68, but the actual time was 9.6875 - which rounds to 9.69) and the speed of the sprinters start. I highly doubt that it was adjusted because of the wind.

Clark said...

Well, let's start with what we know for sure. Replays of the men's 100m final shows zero wind. I had mistakenly remembered a 0.1 m/s tailwind for the race. There was probably another race that evening that did have that ever so slight breeze. The maximum allowable wind for world records to be set is 2.0 m/s.

I find many references on the internet to times being adjusted due to both wind and altitude. Even on NBC one of the broadcasters about a minute after the race says "time adjusted officially to 9.69 seconds". I can not, however, find any sort of official rule book for the sport which would clearly say one way or the other whether adjustments are actually made. It's something that has stuck in my head from who knows where. But certainly many people out there routinely calculate adjustments, even if they aren't official.

They are common enough that someone has made an
adjustment calculator
and put it on the web, and

physicists in Canada
are writing papers about it.

Running at high altitude is beneficial to sprinters, as the air is thinner and offers less resistance. The lower O2 content doesn't effect them much over such short distances. 2000m elevation coupled with 2.0 m/s tail wind can aid a runner as much as 0.15 seconds over 100m. (Beijing is at about 45m elevation, so this was not a factor in Bolt's time.)

Ok, further research has turned up the
IAFF Competition Rules
which makes no mention of adjusting times, but does mention that times for races up to and including the 10,000m are recorded to the next longer 1/100th of a second, that is 9.681 becomes 9.69.

And that is more on the subject than I ever wanted to know.

tysqui said...

Thanks Clark. That's some good info.