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Starting Block Trivia

Posted August. 28, 2007 03:14,   


“Ready, set, go!”

Track sports always start with a gunshot. The results of short races like the 100-meter race are decided by how fast runners react to the gunshot. There are times when some players bolt out of the blocks even before the gunshot. But most start 0.150 seconds after the gunshot.

Olusoji Fasuba of Nigeria had the fastest start with 0.130 seconds in the 100-meter finals of the 11th IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) World Championships in Osaka in 2007. Churandy Martina of Netherlands Antilles was the slowest with 0.180 seconds.

The naked eye is not able to distinguish between the two starts, but the starting block is. The moment the runners kick off, the starting block detects the sudden pressure to one thousandth of second.

By international standards, an athlete is charged with a false start if he or she starts within 0.1 second of the gunshot. This is because it is scientifically proven that no human being can react faster than this. At the first Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, the shortest unit of time was 0.2 seconds. In the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932, 80 referees with stopwatches were involved in recording time.

U.S. sprinter Tim Montgomery cut the tape in 9.78 seconds in Paris, France in 2002. He beat Morris Green’s 1999 record of 9.79 seconds to set the new world record. He was later stripped of his record for using banned substances, but he had a reaction time of just 0.104 seconds. He was just 0.004 seconds from the false start time. He also had a 2.0-meter per second wind assist–the maximum allowed–behind him.

Asafa Powell (Jamaica) started 0.150 seconds after the gunshot in 2005 when he set the unbroken world record (9.77 seconds). His start was 0.046 seconds slower than Montgomery’s fastest start.