World Athletics Championships – The Starting System Explained

This year’s World Athletics Championships has seen a number of sprint athletes disqualified due to false starts.

Seiko is the official timer of the championships and its Start Information System controls all elements of the race starting process: the electronic gun, start sound, distribution of the start signal, reaction times data and auto recall.

The Electronic Gun for starting all races was developed to eliminate any advantage some athletes might have through lane draws, as sound through air travels much slower than electronic sound through a cable.

The starting blocks have specialist technology incorporated into the core of the blocks which measures the pressure exerted by an athlete against the foot-plates. Pressure is measured continuously but it is only processed when the system is made “active”.

Reaction times of athletes at the start are always monitored. The current system in operation will actively analyse the pressure exerted by the athlete between 0.5 seconds before the gun and 0.1 second after the gun. Once the start signal has been generated the Seiko Start System will indicate any false start and auto recall will be activated.

Auto recall will respond by triggering the electronic gun sound 0.6 seconds after the start signal. The reason for the slight delay is to ensure there are two distinct and separate sounds.

Auto recall can only pick up movement in the blocks and if the starter or his assistants see any other infringement they too can recall the race by firing their personal recall pistols.

False starts usually result in the athlete being shown a red card, and as a result is disqualified, as was the case with Mosito Lehata of Lesotho in Round 1 of the Men’s 100m.


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