Letters to the Editor

Olympic winning times, world records

Wednesday, October 17, 2012    

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Dear Editor,

A comparison of the London Olympic results in the longer distances and the sprints with the world records in those events yields interesting, and perhaps, unexpected results.

Mo Farah of the UK won the gold medal in 5000m in a time of 13:41.66; his personal best is 12:53.11. The world record in this event was set by Kenenisa Bekele in 2004 in a time of 12:37.35. World record holder Bekele would have beaten the London Olympic gold medallist by about 64 seconds, which roughly translates to 400m. In other words, at Bekele's speed when he set the world record, he would have "lapped" the London Olympic gold medallist. The same result would be true for the 10,000m which Mo won in 27:30.42 (his personal best is 26:46.51). Bekele's world record set in 2005 is 26:17.53 or roughly 72 seconds faster than Mo's time; again, this translates to a time about 400m better than the Olympic time. In other words, at Bekele's speed when he set the world record, he would have "lapped" Mo, the London Olympic gold medallist. The disparity is particularly significant considering that both Bekele and Mo belong to the same era; in fact, Bekele is just about a year older than Mo. Interestingly, both were born in the same broad geographical area.

Of course, the disparity between the Olympic winning time and the world record reflects adversely, not only on Mo Farah, but on all the London Olympic finalists in those events.

On the other hand, an examination of the sprints reveals no such disparity. The London Olympics winning times in the 100 and 200m, while not as fast as the world records in those events, do not show the same kind of inferiority to the world records as the results in the longer distances. Since Jamaicans were first and second in those races, we can be pleased.

There is, however, a significant difference between the women's 100 and 200m London Olympics winning times and the world records in those events - this kind of disparity extends even further to the women's 400 and 800m. But the less said about the reasons for that difference - too well known to warrant recalling here - the better.

Patrick Robinson

The Hague, Netherlands

robinson.icty@un.org

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