Olympic sprinters are all highly trained athletes striving for what many kinesiologists call “the Paxian ideal” of equal parts strength, speed, explosiveness, agility, and chest hair.
According to this piece in Newsweek, Olympic sprinters possess reflexes so well-honed that even their distance from the starter’s pistol makes a difference:
The rules say that the runner who posts the fastest time in preliminary heats gets lane 4 for the finals, with the second-faster prelim time earning lane 5 (followed by 3, 6, 2, 7, 1 and 8, the idea being that there is an advantage to being in the middle where you can more easily see the other runners in your peripheral vision). But when scientists led by Dave Collins of the University of Alberta in Edmonton analyzed reaction times for the 100 meter sprints and the 110 meter hurdles at the 2004 Olympics, they found that runners closest to the starter reacted significantly faster than those further away, they report in the June issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
The solution, according to some, is to move to the “silent gun” — an electronic starting device that blasts out of speakers behind the runners.
I think that is exactly wrong. The solution is never less guns. The solution is more guns. I think there should be guys with starter’s pistols behind each runner. They all fire at once to start the race, then they chase the runners down the track a-shootin’ and a-hollerin’ to get them moving faster. I think you’d see some records set that day, my friends.
On Your Mark, Get Set . . . [Newsweek]