IS the winner the fastest athlete?


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IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby Bolan » Wed Jan 09, 2013 1:14 pm

With a few days off from work and extra time on my hand, I could not resist the compelling question: who is the fastest athlete?
The current definition implies that it is the first person to cross the finish line after the starter fires the starting gun in any race. Let’s limit our discussion to the 100 M and apply some thought provoking physics questions.
Is the person with the largest speed the fastest?
Does the person who maintains their top speed the longest the fastest?
Does the person who reaches his top speed in the shortest time (max acceleration) the fastest?
What is the delicate balance between maximum speed, maximum acceleration and speed endurance in the selection of the fastest athlete?
The answer to such question can easily be solved by the rigor of mathematics and sound scientific reasoning.
Let’s use the result of the women 100 m final in Berlin.
Shelly ann competed the race in 10.73 sec, therefore her average speed =100/10.73c =9.3197 m/s
Shelly’s maximum speed occurred in the 60-80 meter interval and was 20m/1.89s =10.5820 m/s
If we were to analyze her average speed purely from the perspective of when she initiated motion then that would give a more realistic value of her average speed. Let’s call this speed the true speed. To accomplish this we could subtract the time taken to react to the gun from the total time. Shelly’s average true speed is 100m/(10.584)= 9.4482m/s
Applying the same logic to Kerron stewart and comparing with shelly’s result we have:
Shelly’s average speed =9.3197 m/s
Kerron average speed=9.3023 m/s
Shelly’s average true speed = 9.4482m/s
Keron’s average true speed= 9.4554 m/s
Shelly’s maximum speed= 10.5820 m/s
Kerron’s maximum speed= 10.7527 m/s
The astonishing result is that Kerron stewart by definition of average and instantaneous speed was clearly the fastest athlete with larger maxmimu speed and true speed,but the quick reflex of shelly ann resulted in winning the race from the initial 30 meter since kerron covered every interval faster than shelly ann thereafter. Another thing to ponder is the position of the starter. The starter is usually closest to lane one athletes and the shortest distance from the starter to each athlete is a straight line . If we assume that the average distance between each athlete is 2 meters and the speed of sound in air is 340 m/s then it is theoretically possible that shelly could have heard the sound of the gun (2m/340m/s) approximately .006 seconds earlier than kerron stewart.
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby gh » Wed Jan 09, 2013 1:32 pm

Excellent question, and one that has been debated for as long as the sport has been around, probably.

I can recall discussions in the '60s where it was posited that while Bob Hayes might indisputably be the "world's fastest human," when it came to who was able to run the fastest (highest peak velocity) it was probably Tommie Smith.
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby lar » Wed Jan 09, 2013 2:34 pm

Good question. In conjunction with this, I've also wondered about some of the field events. What if the long jump was indeed measured from the take-off point, rather than from the board, just behind the plasticine. Wont we see jumps measured well over 9 Meters? Or what if the javelin was measured just from the time of release. I'm sure we would see throws measured over 100m. Perhaps it would be cool to see a standard-free meet, where actual distances are measured, and reaction times are subtracted. Create some suspense or award the true "longest" or "fastest"!!
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby mal » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:22 am

lar wrote:Good question. In conjunction with this, I've also wondered about some of the field events. What if the long jump was indeed measured from the take-off point, rather than from the board, just behind the plasticine. Wont we see jumps measured well over 9 Meters? Or what if the javelin was measured just from the time of release. I'm sure we would see throws measured over 100m. Perhaps it would be cool to see a standard-free meet, where actual distances are measured, and reaction times are subtracted. Create some suspense or award the true "longest" or "fastest"!!


They have done the meter square take off board at odd times, and we do not have magic numbers recorded with a "what if" along side.

The discipline of the board is often more important to the result than the 'freedom' of no board.
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby Pierre-Jean » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:41 am

Bolan wrote:What is the delicate balance between maximum speed, maximum acceleration and speed endurance in the selection of the fastest athlete?
The answer to such question can easily be solved by the rigor of mathematics and sound scientific reasoning.


The top speed as measured in a 100m race as the very high corelation with the 100m final result. The ranking of the top speed and the 100m time is often the same in major champs from the data recorded over the last 40 years during the major events.
Also, the section of the race where the max speed is reached is the one with the highest corelation with 100m final result. And an inverse relationship tends to be found between the acceleration phase and the speed endurance phase.

Bolan wrote:The starter is usually closest to lane one athletes and the shortest distance from the starter to each athlete is a straight line . If we assume that the average distance between each athlete is 2 meters and the speed of sound in air is 340 m/s then it is theoretically possible that shelly could have heard the sound of the gun (2m/340m/s) approximately .006 seconds earlier than kerron stewart.


This issue is fixed since there are speakers behind the blocks, at leats in major champs. What you describe is indeed an important factor in most of the races held in the world.
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby Marlow » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:51 am

gh wrote:Excellent question, and one that has been debated for as long as the sport has been around, probably. I can recall discussions in the '60s where it was posited that while Bob Hayes might indisputably be the "world's fastest human," when it came to who was able to run the fastest (highest peak velocity) it was probably Tommie Smith.

That's hard for me to believe. Certainly TS could hold top speed better, but pure brute-strength, top-end, '10-meter split' speed? That was Hayes. I've always thought that we should have radar guns on every lane of the Oly Final to chart that very thing over the course of the race. Obviously now Bolt holds that distinction, and yes, peak speed is indeed the very definition of 'who is fastest?'
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby Pierre-Jean » Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:03 am

Marlow wrote:That's hard for me to believe. Certainly TS could hold top speed better, but pure brute-strength, top-end, '10-meter split' speed? That was Hayes. I've always thought that we should have radar guns on every lane of the Oly Final to chart that very thing over the course of the race. Obviously now Bolt holds that distinction, and yes, peak speed is indeed the very definition of 'who is fastest?'


The most accurate report i've found for Hayes is this http://www.si.com/vault/article/magazin ... /index.htm
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby Marlow » Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:06 am

Pierre-Jean wrote:The most accurate report i've found for Hayes is this http://www.si.com/vault/article/magazin ... /index.htm

Which is to say, not accurate at all. The numbers have too few significant digits and are approximations. Only a calibrated radar gun (NOT the one in the funny video!) or a FAT 10m split has sufficient accuracy.
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby Pierre-Jean » Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:16 am

Yes not accurate at all but this top speed figure has been used for years in the World Record Guiness books...
Radar laser guns - not the one on the funny video - an their accuracy has been questioned as up to 0.02 s difference has been found in comparison to HS video cameras. Other difference : Laser guns shot the sprinter from behind and captures the back of the sprinter (and sometimes his arms...) while pictures from HS cams take the time from the first part of torso.
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby lonewolf » Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:27 am

mal wrote:
lar wrote:Good question. In conjunction with this, I've also wondered about some of the field events. What if the long jump was indeed measured from the take-off point, rather than from the board, just behind the plasticine. Wont we see jumps measured well over 9 Meters? Or what if the javelin was measured just from the time of release. I'm sure we would see throws measured over 100m. Perhaps it would be cool to see a standard-free meet, where actual distances are measured, and reaction times are subtracted. Create some suspense or award the true "longest" or "fastest"!!


They have done the meter square take off board at odd times, and we do not have magic numbers recorded with a "what if" along side.

The discipline of the board is often more important to the result than the 'freedom' of no board.


My college coach, himself an all-round athlete and Olympic coach, was an advocate of a wide board. Circa 1949-53, I participated in such "experiments" several times. While it is great fun to just charge down the runway and jump with abandon, I don't recall that any of the "real' jumpers in the tests exceeded their PBs.

I think we would see an increase in the number of spectacular jumps but we have already seen a handful of 29' jumps which, fortunately, were from behind the foul line.
I would not expect a rash of 30' jumps. The human body, in its present state of evolution, is only capable of so much.
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby Marlow » Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:34 am

lonewolf wrote:The human body, in its present state of evolution, is only capable of so much.

I'm counting to 10 and showing REMARKABLE restraint . . . :wink: . . .
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby lonewolf » Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:38 am

Grab a Pepsi and a Twinkie and calm down. :)
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby Marlow » Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:44 am

lonewolf wrote:Grab a Pepsi and a Twinkie and calm down. :)

Good advice - I shall (as if I needed an excuse) . . . but these ersatz Twinkies ain't cuttin' it. :(
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby gh » Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:52 am

Pierre-Jean wrote:Yes not accurate at all but this top speed figure has been used for years in the World Record Guiness books.......


You mean the same people whose level of exactitude includes most hot dogs eaten in an hour? Now there's some serious science!
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby Pierre-Jean » Thu Jan 10, 2013 11:19 am

Gh, i didn't mean Guiness book is a reliable source of info, i was just pointing out that the Guiness book has publish this inacurate data for years.
(Bob Hayes mentions in details this story about this 25y timing in his book "Run, Bullet, Run" published in 1990, and the first mentions - without much details about the timing procedure - of this "human speed record" appears in the Guiness book in '70s or maybe even before).
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby no one » Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:18 pm

a bit of a different slant ... in the 1973 NCAA XC champs Steve Prefontaine won in 28:14.8, Nick Rose was second in 28:20.0, and Gordon Minty was third in 28:22.0

One would normally say that Pre was the fastest.

Not so. At the start of the race Gordon was tripped and fell. By the time he was able to get to his feet he was ~ 50-75 yards (depending on who's account you reference) behind the last man. Munching all that together it is believable he was ~ 15 seconds behind, allowing for actual yardage.

I say Gordon was the fastest that day, and were it not for that fall there was a very very good chance he would have won. He was undefeated for the entire year having won most of his races by huge margins.

Point, mere stats don't tell entire story ... all of the time.

NCAA Champion - not to be; but he's okay these days, I think.
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby TN1965 » Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:44 pm

lar wrote:Wont we see jumps measured well over 9 Meters?


If I am not mistaken, Carl Lewis jumped 9m at least twice. The first was a jump in Indianapolis in 1982, which was called a foul. (There is some report that the call was an error, and the jump itself should have been legal.)

The second was his winning jump in Barcelona (8.67). Dwight Stones said Lewis had at least a foot to spare in his take-off. (Okay, 8.67+0.305 is still 8.975, but "at least" implies there could be another 0.025.)
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby Pierre-Jean » Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:55 pm

TN1965 wrote:The second was his winning jump in Barcelona (8.67). Dwight Stones said Lewis had at least a foot to spare in his take-off. (Okay, 8.67+0.305 is still 8.975, but "at least" implies there could be another 0.025.)


You are probably refering to Seoul'88 where the toe-to-board of his 8.72 winning jump was measured at 0.18 :?: In Barcelona, he hit the board for his 8.67.
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby Gabriella » Fri Jan 11, 2013 3:31 am

Pierre-Jean wrote:The top speed as measured in a 100m race as the very high corelation with the 100m final result. The ranking of the top speed and the 100m time is often the same in major champs from the data recorded over the last 40 years during the major events.
Also, the section of the race where the max speed is reached is the one with the highest corelation with 100m final result. And an inverse relationship tends to be found between the acceleration phase and the speed endurance phase.


The Seoul results tell an interesting story. Pierre-Jean will be familiar with these, but they show that for the 3 mens medalists and 2 of the women's, they reach maximum speed at 50-60m. They also maintain maximum speed for one 10m section only. The odd one out is Flo Jo, who reached maximum speed at 60-70m and maintained it for 30m. :shock:

Frank Dick believed the aim of a sprinter should be to maintain a speed within 0.01 of maximum speed for 30m. If you look at fastest 10m time and fastest 10m time + 0.01 sec from Seoul, the results are very interesting:

Split Johnson Lewis Christie
40-50 0.84 ...... 0.85
50-60 0.83 0.83 0.84
60-70 0.84

Griffith Ashford Drechsler
50-60 0.92 0.96 0.94
60-70 0.91 0.95 0.95
70-80 0.91 0.95 0.95
80-90 0.91
90-100 0.92

Dick says "Lewis’ midrace data reflects a loss of concentration rather than a fair picture
of his capacity to hold maximum speed:
40m-50m 0.86
50m-60m 0.83
60m-70m 0.85

Griffith Joyner’s data suggests that her maximum speed was not achieved in this race. She in fact held a speed within 0.02 sec. of her fastest 10m time in the Seoul Olympic final for the final 60m of the race!"
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby Pierre-Jean » Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:15 am

Gabriella wrote:Griffith Joyner’s data suggests that her maximum speed was not achieved in this race. She in fact held a speed within 0.02 sec. of her fastest 10m time in the Seoul Olympic final for the final 60m of the race!"[/i]

This was also the case of Grace Jackson in the same race. How much effect had the +3.0m/s wind on that pattern? There's also the case of Carl Lewis in Stuttgart WC'93 sf (3rd in 10.02 wind only +0.3m/s) whose last 20m were the fastest of the race. However data suggests that this pattern is not linked with the level of performance. I've coached a 10.1/20.4 sprinter who used to maintain speed in the last 60m of the 100m.
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby Gabriella » Fri Jan 11, 2013 7:07 am

Pierre-Jean wrote:This was also the case of Grace Jackson in the same race. How much effect had the +3.0m/s wind on that pattern? There's also the case of Carl Lewis in Stuttgart WC'93 sf (3rd in 10.02 wind only +0.3m/s) whose last 20m were the fastest of the race. However data suggests that this pattern is not linked with the level of performance. I've coached a 10.1/20.4 sprinter who used to maintain speed in the last 60m of the 100m.


So, speed maintenance doesn't necessarily correlate with maximum speed ability. Maintaining maximum speed for 60m though? That does seem a very rare ability.

Frank Dicks suggestion that Flo Jo wasn't at her maximum speed intrigues me. Could she have run a sub 0.9 split legally? As far as I know, a split of 0.92 is the fasest legal 10m section for a woman recorded - a lot thanks to your analysis, PJ. A number of women have achieved this (Flo Jo, Jones, Thanou, Drechsler, Ashford) PJ do you have any updated information here since all the 10.7's and 10.6's of Jeter, Fraser-Pryce and Stewart? It would be interesting to read their top end maximum speed splits.

On the men, it is clear that times have changed since 88. Do we have any updated all-time splits for men?
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby Pierre-Jean » Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:32 am

1) Speed maintenance correlates with maximum speed in that SM is the same % of MS, whatever the level of performance. I.e. a lesser level athlete will have the same % of decelarating rate as a higher level athlete. This sounds counter-intuitive but i've shown it in an extensive statistical 400m study in 2010 with 43-47 (men) and 47-53 (women) 400m runners. Same goes for all sprint events, however it is not possible to show this for 100m because higher level athletes have longer acceleration thus reach their max speed father in the race, hence closer to the finish line. You can see the bias here if the rate of deceleration is used as the expression of speed maintenance : high level athlete will have higher rate, not because they have better speed maintenance, but because they have a shorter distance of deceleration (approx 40m for high level vs 50 for lower level sprinters).

2) Aside Flo-Jo, 0.92 has been only been recorded for Drechsler (WC87), Devers (WC97 relay) and Jones (WC99). Carmelita Jeter in Shanghai (10.64) or Thessaloniki (10.67) probably hit those speeds. 0.91-0.93 have been measured during the US OT'08 for 11 girls (legal wind) (!!!), but i'm very suspicious about the accuracy of this analysis as these top speeds don't match with the final performance and their speed curves are way too erratic.
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby Marlow » Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:57 am

Reading a front page article I see that tennis player Andy Murray can reach 10 meter per second speed in just a couple of steps, so expect him to break 10.00 very soon . . . :roll:
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Re: IS the winner the fastest athlete?

Postby mal » Fri Jan 11, 2013 2:47 pm

If you slow down enough you can maintain maximum speed for more than 50 ms. :mrgreen:

Measuring individual races, and making assumptions on a piecemeal basis may lead to red herrings.

For you cyclists in the audience, there are some great programs which demonstrate race shape.

www.strava.com
tracks your ride,

www.veloviewer.com

allows you to play with your ride in a format that shows how you achieved the result. It might be useful if someone could do the same with running.
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