On August 11, Herk Confer wrote:

> Does anyone know if the running track for the Atlanta games was a "tuned"
> track? By tuning I mean that the stiffness of the track is set to minimize
> contact time and optimize step length and speed. The reason I ask is that
> throughout the Olympics they referred to the track as being a "fast track"
> and I thought that this may be the reason why.

> Herk A. Confer

I agree with Martha Jack in her message from yesterday that the
Atlanta track was probably not a "tuned" track such as the scientifically
designed track at Harvard.

In the sport of track and field, the term "fast track" is often used
loosely to describe a track that, for whatever reason, leads (or seems to
lead!) to fast times, particularly in sprinting races. According to what I
have read in the (non-scientific!) magazine Track & Field News, some of the
***harder*** tracks have a reputation for producing faster times in sprint
races and also better results in events requiring fast sprinting speed such
as the long and triple jumps. I half-remember reading within the past
couple of years in Track & Field News that the International Amateur
Athletic Federation (IAAF) has put some kind of restriction on the hardness
that a track can have. The reasoning is that the harder the track, the
faster the sprinting, but also the greater the likelyhood of injury,
particularly through the repetitive use of a hard track for training. It
was said that the track used for the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo may
have been harder than the maximum allowed. The Atlanta track was reported
to be harder than most other tracks, and it was also reported to "feel"
faster than most other tracks. Did it really produce faster times? Or is
it all in the athletes' imagination? Who knows?! The differences (if they
truly exist) are small enough that it is difficult to prove statistically if
one track is faster or slower than another. If you have a competition that
produces a few particularly good times, everyone is going to start saying
that this is a fast track, even if the fast times were due to some other
reason, such as the fact that all the athletes were particularly well
prepared for that competition, or even mere chance! Maybe there IS
something to all this, and some outdoor track & field tracks are markedly
faster than others (say, half a tenth of a second for 100 meters?), but I
have not seen clear evidence of it up to this point.

Jesus Dapena
Jesus Dapena
Department of Kinesiology
Indiana University

Bloomington, IN 47405, USA