athletics relay races - can someone explain this?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by andrew markworthy, Mar 24, 2006.

  1. andrew markworthy

    Sep 30, 1999
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    I was reminded of this watching the Commonwealth Games this lunchtime [I'm sure all my American chums have been likewise glued to the TVs watching these as well [​IMG] ]. Watching the men's 4x400 relay I was reminded of a great unfairness in these races. Namely, different runners can compete in different heats of the race. Typically, a 'B team' does the early rounds and then the very best runners are brought out for the final.

    Okay, I see why this is done in practical terms - if you've got strength in depth and you know the B team can safely get you through the early rounds, this saves your top runners for the final. But am I the only one who thinks this is unsporting and unfair? Three reasons for this little grouse:

    (1) the B team does all the work getting to the final and then the top runners get the chance to run for the medals

    (2) the system unfairly favours countries with bigger populations since the odds are that they will have sufficient numbers of runners that they can produce a good quality B team. A country with a smaller population is almost certain to have fewer good runners and thus the same runners will have to run in every round and hence will be less 'fresh' than a team that only runs the final.

    (3) I can think of no other sporting event where the personnel can change this markedly.

    Or am I missing the point?
  2. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

    Nov 3, 2003
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    I hadn't really thought about your points 1 and 2 before, Andrew. But I'm pretty sure that swimming relays have a similar B-team dynamic in the qualifying rounds.
  3. Brook K

    Brook K Lead Actor

    Feb 22, 2000
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    1. I'm pretty sure that all the members of a relay team that competed in the event get medals even if they aren't part of the "final 4" group that actually wins the medal. The B guys get medals too.

    2. For the "B" guys this provides experience against world-class competition. In future years, if they're good enough they'll get a turn at the "A" team. Similar to how cyclists teams will have 6-8 members, but really everyone defers to the top guy on the team. I belive Formula 1 teams have this as well, where the other guys on the team are really working to help the top guy win rather than racing strictly for themselves.

    3. It isn't so much so that the "A" team members don't get worn out competing in multiple relay heats (which usually take place over a multi-day time period), but because the "A" members are also competing in individual events. In large meets with lots of runners, you wouldn't want to have your best guys running a relay prelim and then 20 minutes later having to do their individual event qualifying, etc.

    I didn't go to a large enough highschool that it was necessary, but I would have been a definite "B" team member. My one highschool track medal is a gold in a 4x400 relay because the coach let me anchor a race with our 3 fastest guys out in front. They got me such a lead that I coudn't lose even though my personal best 400 time was about 6-9 seconds slower than any of theirs.

    The handoff exchange is just as difficult as the commentators make it sound. It really is the difference in a lot of races.

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