Fri, September 20, 2013

Olympic athletes on fast track to 100M success

By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency


On the first day of track and field events at the Summer Games, 52 personal bests were set on the track, which is so fast it's been dubbed the 'magic carpet.' As Ivory Coast runner Murielle Ahoure, above, said: "This is way fast. I can't believe it." (REUTERS)

LONDON - They are calling the racing surface here at Olympic Stadium the “magic carpet” and after two days of competition, it’s not hard to see why.

On Friday, the opening day of track and field competition, a total of 52 personal bests and 12 national records were set.

The speed show continued on Saturday as the top contenders for the men’s 100 metres ran quick times under minimal effort leading to expectation that Usain Bolt’s world record will tumble in Sunday’s semifinal and final rounds — and perhaps more than once.

“This is way fast,” Ivory Coast sprinter Murielle Ahoure said on Saturday. “I can’t believe it.”

She’s not alone although the track and the stadium were built with just that in mind.

The high-tech track that hundreds of millions of viewers around the world will stop to watch Bolt and the rest of the top sprinters put it to the test. The track surface known as Mondotrack has absorbing material on the bottom rather than the top which, according to the science anyway, provides better traction. As a result, the runners haven’t needed their spikes to dig into the track as much while still getting adequate grip to rip off speedy times.

Whatever it is, the athletes are certainly noticing a difference. British heptathlete Jessica Ennis was stunned when she ran a personal best 12.54 in the 100-metre hurdle event of her competition, the first official race on the track on Friday morning.

“If I’d run 12.8 or 12.7 something, I would have been over the moon,” said Ennis, who was cruising towards a gold medal on Saturday. “But .54? I literally can’t believe it.” Not many could. The time beat the heptathlon hurdles record set by Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 1988.

It isn’t just the track that was meant to boost the speeds either. The partial roof of the stadium was designed by engineers with experience in wind tunnels to minimize the effect of whatever breezes get inside on the competition.

It also hasn’t hurt that the track competition so far has been played in front of noisy capacity crowds of 80,000 for each of the four ticketed sessions thus far. Those roars will be expected to peak around 10 p.m. Sunday night when the men’s 100M final is raced. Based on what has happened so far, few would be surprised if Bolt and Co. give them something extra fast to roar about.

“The track is very, very quick,” Nigerian sprinter Gloria Asumnu said. “You get something back from the track when you run. There will be some great times.”

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: longleysunsport