I know that most of you who read this aren’t sprinters and you may not even follow track and field that much (if at all). For those who do, this one’s for you.
We had a good discussion about photo finishes and how it is determined who wins in those close races. And given the “photo finishes” at the track & field World Championships in Osaka this past week I thought I post this.
This is an actual photo from the electronic equipment used for photo finishes. It is a high speed picture. The cameras are mounted about 10-12 feet above the track to the outside (sometimes the inside). Notice the distortion of the runners. The green vertical lines align with the torso of that runner as they crossed the finish line. Torsos are timed, not arms, legs or heads. If you follow the line to the bottom there is a scale of time. The big lines are in 10ths of seconds (10.1 = 10 and 1/10 of a second). The smaller lines between are 100ths. Official times are always rounded to the slower 100ths in track. So if that green lands between the scale lines, it is read to the next slower line.
A couple other tidbits:
In the upper left you see the date and the wind speed. It has to be less than 2.0 meters per second. 2.0 m/s or greater is considered “wind aided”. That means the time is not eligible for record purposes. In case you’re wondering, that is a very light breeze! In this case it was a “minus” wind or a slight head wind of .5 m/s.
The table in the lower left shows place, and final time. Also note the reaction time which is measured electronically from the starting blocks. It is triggered by the pressure applied to the starting blocks. The starters gun is electronically connected as well. Most meets do not have the starting blocks wired. But, if the starters gun is connected to the electronic timing/photo system it is called Fully Automatic Timing (FAT). These are the only times that can be recorded in 100ths. All other times have to be recorded in 10ths. Yes… that means that even though your wrist chronograph stops on 10.42 seconds it would have to be read and recorded as 10.5.
Trivia points: The accepted translation from a hand-timed to an FAT time is to add .24 seconds to the hand time to get your FAT equivalent. However, you cannot do that and then call it “Fully Automatic Timed”. This is just a standard for comparison sake. It remains a hand-timed time and remains in 10ths.