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Sprinters’ Advantage

August 7, 2008

An Olympic sprinter’s proximity to the starter’s gun could influence the outcome of a race.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Sound and glory at the Olympics. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

At the Olympics, just a few hundredths of a second can mean the difference between victory and defeat—especially in short sprints. New research shows that that difference could depend as much on a runner’s starting position as it does on athletic performance. University of Alberta researcher Alex Brown and his colleagues analyzed data from men’s 100- meter events at the 2004 Athens Olympics. They found that runners nearest the starter’s gun got an unfair advantage
ALEX BROWN (University of Alberta):
We found that in lane 1 we were seeing significantly faster reaction times.
HIRSHON:
And further tests revealed that the louder the sound of a starter’s gun, the faster the reaction time.
ALEX BROWN (University of Alberta):
We varied the intensity of the "GO" signal from 80 decibels to 120 decibels. And we found that as we increased that intensity, they were starting faster and faster.
HIRSHON:
I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.