Olympics suggest sectionals are the gold standard
13 August 2012
I have returned from a week off and if the Olympics has not provided ample proof that racing would clearly benefit from sectional timing then I do not know what more can be done for the cause.
In the space of two weeks we have become a nation of experts on the merits of split timing. We have happily discussed over a cup of tea or a pint or two how Mo Farah’s finishing burst in the 5,000 meters last week was the stuff of legend. He made poor old Roger Bannister look like a slowcoach.
Farah’s overall time was poor and it is not as if he had to encounter heavy going at Haydock, either.
Farah finished in 13 minutes 41.66 seconds, which is over a minute outside the world record. The 29-year-old kicked for home 700m out and to contextualise what we were seeing on the television, or live in the Olympic stadium for the lucky few of you, he ran the final 1,600m in 3m 57s.
That time dips below the legendary four-minute mile – not bad having run 3,400m, or just over two miles if you are still in Imperial measurements. Farah finished the final 400m of his race in 52.9s. Michael Johnson’s long-standing world record time is 43.18s.
Where split times really came in to their own, however, was for Caster Semenya’s bizarre effort in the Women’s 800m. With two thirds of the final lap to go she was placed last by around 12 metres looking off the bridle but finished with a late rattle to make the podium.
If you look at her split times she not only ran at a fairly even pace but her final 200m was run in a slower time than in her semi-final heat. Of course there are numerous other reasons as to why Semenya ran such a race, which are discussed expertly here, but the fact remains the South African was simply picking up tired runners having used her energy more efficiently than her rivals.
Not only does sectional timing provide context to a race, but it also promotes debate and allows us to understand the dynamics of each event.
Thanks to James Willoughby we all knew that The Fugue ran one of the fastest final three furlong splits in the recent history of the Oaks and after her failure on rain-softened ground at Ascot it was clear she was a good thing at Glorious Goodwood.
The argument that people will not understand sectional timing is to insult the intelligence of every racegoer in the country. The argument that sectional timings are unnecessary is similar to that about having colour images in relation to black and white. There is no argument against progress.
The British Champions Series has done a marvellous job to get sectional timings into 60 per cent of their races and it is time we as punters and even casual racegoers to demand better.