Probably the biggest sporting shock over the weekend was the late withdrawal of tennis legend Roger Federer, allegedly due to injury, from his final against Novak Djokovic in the ATP World Tour final at the 02 Arena.
There are several issues arising.
Firstly, Federer may well be genuinely injured and/or took his decision with the utmost reluctance upon medical advice – not least because, had he played, he might have brought on a prolonged condition that threatened his playing schedule next year, not least his participation in the Australian Open, the first Major of 2015.
Secondly, one can only feel sympathy for the crowd that had paid good money – many of them plenty of money, no doubt – weeks or even months ago in anticipation of seeing two of the world’s best players [as it turned out, probably the world’s best two players] slugging it out at the end of yet another long, long season. To have one of the finalists pull out – especially at such short notice, viz. after all concerned had travelled to the O2 Arena at considerable cost and effort – must have been very frustrating for fans, organisers and sponsors, never mind the broadcasters.
Over this episode some will take the line “This an key elite sporting event – surely you should go out, even if you’re not feeling quite 100%, and give it your best shot?’ and others will give Federer the benefit of the doubt (‘He’s coming to the end of his career – there’s too much at stake for him to risk serious injury and the precious time he might still have at the top’).
I guess we can all hope that it wasn’t just a case of the great man realising that – since the probability was that he’d lose to Djokovic in any event – and that facing him in anything other than tip-top condition made this a certainty – and he just didn’t want to go through the experience.
However, that is not the main purpose of my post today.
Rather, I think I have spotted something else.
In a report on Federer’s withdrawal which appears on the website of the Daily Telegraph today, XXXX reviews Federer’s situation against other examples of memorable sporting capitulations – see here – DAILY TELEGRAPH
When I looked at the photograph illustrating the first listed [Wyndham Halswelle’s gold medal victory in the 1908 London Olympics 400 metres final], a flash-thought came to me. Looking at the shape of the oval track, it seemed that – at least in the 1908 Olympics – that the straights were marginally longer, and the bends marginally sharper, than they are with modern tracks.
Could it be that – never mind superior modern training methods, equipment, diets, nutrition and of course the quality of modern running or playing surfaces – the actual shape of the 400 metre tracks in days gone by were less advantageous than they are today?
This gulf is patently obvious with indoor running tracks – modern ones have banking on the bends – but with outdoor tracks, surely in theory at least a track possessed of ‘slower, more gradual’ bends must assist greater general speed (in races of 400 metres and longer) than a ‘longer straight and sharper bend’ version?
When you are trying to compare athletics performances in different eras, maybe the exact shape of the oval tracks involved – where different – should also be a factor taken into account. Perhaps someone like Wyndham Halswelle would not have been quite so far behind as we think if he was suddenly magically transported forward a century in time and able to compete on equal terms with his modern counterparts.