Modern technology robs elite athletes of Olympic glory
For Australian James Magnussen modern timing technology may have cost him an individual gold medal at the London Olympics.
Loosing an Olympic gold medal by 0.01 of a second… that hurts… a lot! If you didn’t see it, it was the Mens 100m Freestyle in London, the last 25 meters of James Magnussen’s swim was amazing, I was certain he would win… But then, out of nowhere American Nathan Adrian touched Magnussen out by 0.01 of a second.
I had so many different reactions, but here’s the jist of it: The swimming teacher and coach in me screams at my TV, “that was a bad touch” (or something to that effect). The avid Australian swimming team supporter in me yelled very patriotic obscenities at my TV at 5am in the morning. Whilst the curious “question everything” budding scientist in me asked how it came about that such small differences in time are measured accurately.
What if the men’s 100m Freestyle final from last week was raced without the modern timing technology and video replay? Would they have just called it a dead heat and awarded both Nathan Adrian and James Magnussen a Gold medal?
In the “olden days” three timekeepers would use hand held stopwatches to accurately measure the differences in time between swimmers. In the modern era, touch pads to detect time differences are used.
I am almost tempted to say that the reason why records are falling could even be because our timing equipment is getting better? I know – what an outlandish statement. Surely, the training is getting better the athletes are getting faster and stronger. But what if I had tried to time Ussain Bolt’s Bejing 100m run with a stopwatch? In fact, in a documentary on Foxtel before the Olympics, did just that – they found that the times on a held held stopwatch were up to 0.2 seconds outside the time recorded by the Omega timing technologies at the games. Goodness me, don’t get me started on how dependent athletics is on timing technologies!
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t profess to know anything special about timing technologies, but what I have seen in the sport of swimming, is an increased use and dependence on touch pad technology. I just wonder how many talented athletes have lost gold medals because of this extremely sophisticated touch pad technology in the sport of swimming.
Go back to the 2008 Olympics when Michael Phelps touched out Millorad Cavic by 0.01 of a second… there were many conspiracy theories about how Phelps is a Omega sponsored athlete. Which were quashed, when Omega came out and said that Cavic got there first but did not touch the timing pad hard enough and it was not activated (Youtube link). In fact there are terms coined in the “Urban Dictionary” about this incident (Link is here).
My favourite one would have to be “Caviced” (definition one). I am sure Magnussen feels a little bit Caviced about modern technology.
Here are some further links:
Link to Omega’s offical video about Cavic vs Phelps: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaXIerEoL_c
Here is a link to Omega watches http://www.omegawatches.com/spirit/sports/swimming
A quick google search of Cavic Vs. Phelps brings up some seriously interesting articles.
For example: http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-sport/cavic-says-tech-cost-him-phelps-gold-20090728-dz06.html