Mathematics Gone Wild

Story written by EPelle

Man must be smarter than a computer. God help us if he's not.

Scientific "studies" - many of which have been no more than a waste of time - have been abundant on what the capacities man can expect to reach in athletics.

Today, a new predictive analysis was introduced to the world, and Paula Radcliffe ought to beware.

Dutchman John Einmahl, a mathematecian and professor at Tilberg University in Germany, predicted that Radcliffe can expect to have her world record ultimately lowered by eight minutes 50 seconds in the future, though no date was provided as to when the miraculous breakthrough could occur.

"For a lot of athletes it is probably depressing when they are confronted with our extreme values," Professor Einmahl is quoted as stating. "But this is a very serious study -- the extreme theory as a part of mathematics and statistics is an accepted science."

The men, on the other hand, stand to stagnate within the near future, as Paul Tergat's 2003 marathon world record time of 2.04.55 - set in Berlin - should ultimately only be lowered by 49 more seconds. Haile Gebrselassie, who has made public his attempt to win the Beijing Marathon and set the world record within the next two years, may be the last person alive to ever etch his name into history.


Asafa Powell, meanwhile, stands to be followed by a long list of suitors or one incredibly wild freak of nature insofar as his world record - shared by a steroid-aided Justin Gatlin - should be lowered from 9,77 to 9,29.

Canadian Ben Johnson once stated that no human being could ever legally run 9,79-seconds for the 100m dash. His prediction is nearly true as the first under 9,80, Tim Montgomery, was found to be a drugs cheat, and his performances have been erased. Gatlin, the current co-world record-holder, has tested positive for steroids. That leaves Powell in rarified air.

Powell is a terrific specimen of an athlete, and runs smoother and easier than any current straight-dash sprinter on the circuit, but he will never run under 9,70 - even with a maximum allowable wind (+2,0 m/s).

Professor Einmahl computed - by studying world records in 14 disciplines and feeding the best marks of 1.546 male and 1.024 female athletes into a computer - that Michael Johnson's 200m world record - 19,32 - could lower to 18,63.

Nike athlete Xavier Carter, who ran the second-fastest 200m ever in this, his inagural season at the professional level, 19,63, has only one full second left to tick off before this prediction comes true. Fascinating stuff.

The professor apparently acknowledged that there is room for extraordinary performances that will turn his results upside down, so Geb may yet have hope to extend beyond 2.04.06. Mr. Einmahl said his field doesn't recognize the impossible, but accepts the unbelievable.

"Who would have thought Bob Beamon would jump 8.90 meters on Oct. 18, 1968?" he said.

What the good professor fails to state is that the mark came at a humid location at altitude - an aide which Track & Fields News differentiates when denoting records.

The Associated Press author was practical enough to state that Beamon's record was not touched for another 23 years. No athlete, including Beamon, himself, ever got within the same time zone as Beamon's 1968 Olympic Games mark set in Mexico City.

Mathematics and statistics can be a great deal of fun to twist and turn to see what athletes are capable of, but, without any brainwork being applied to the answers computed by the machines, one will wait an entire lifetime hoping a woman will run her first 10km of a marathon in just over 30.00, repeat this four more times, and then have enough energy left to run 2,2km more at that pace. Better yet, the lucky female capable of this feat will need to run 105 times around the track in 71,96 seconds/lap without stopping.

Jesus Dapena, an Indiana University biomechanics professor, said in June that there must be a limit to how fast man can run. He stated that a man will never run 100 meters in three seconds, for instance, but that limit can't be defined. Mr. Einmahl basis his assumptions on a predictive model a computer has generated.

Mr. Einmahl's facts and figures have been stated to have been included to study extreme stock market prices as well as the required height needed in dams to control huge floods, and he's said to have performed a study funded by the insurance field over the highest possible damage claims possible to file.

Stock markets may use his numbers as a boundary marker, and insurance carriers may touch base with him for redline values, but his analysis of athletics performances fails the grade in the human capacity course.

If - and when - you ever witness a female athlete who runs 20km in one hour, and says she can continue for another at the same pace, check to see that she is not hallucinating. If she insists, and is able to stay the course, you'll have to do the honarary thing and for EPO and other performance-enhancing drugs - including gene doping.

Alas, if she succeeds and, indeed, makes it to the finish line under 2.07.00, feel free to drop me a line. I'll be first in line at the Guiness Book of World's Records eating my shorts.

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