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Sprinters Beat The Drum

By John Sidgwick

SYDNEY, 21 SEPTEMBER 2000 - The Olympic Games have just begun and when the short-distance track events commence on Friday, they are bound to be bedevilled by false starts. Yet these are completely unnecessary. After all, if the ninety-odd members of a symphony orchestra can start together, surely eight sprinters should be able to do likewise? (I do admit that unlike the sprinters, the musicians aim to finish together.)

Over the past fifty years, I have suggested to sprint athletes that an internationally-accepted drumbeat pattern to be played immediately after the "get set" instruction and leading to the gun would mean that all doubt would be removed from the athletes' minds about the precise moment of the "off".

Here is a possible start sequence:

On your marks.

Get set

Drum beats:

Crotchet/quarter-note: 200
Bar one: crotchet, crotchet,
Bar two: triplet, triplet
Bar three: Off

I have spoken to many athletes about this. Nearly all agree that it would work - but immediately say that if it were put into into practice, they would never be able to steal a start. Belle mentalité!

An added advantage of a pre-established start pattern is that it would bring about the abandonment of the present absurd convention whereby a sprinter is deemed to have "broken" if his start is simultaneous with the firing of the gun.

Let us see what happens at Sydney. Perhaps these games will turn out to be a false-start free zone. Perhaps on the other hand, we shall witness a massive scandal. Who knows?


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