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The Future of Throwing Measurement

Tony Dziepak, 2 May 2003

The future of throwing measurement involves chips. No, not the cow chip throw. I mean the magnetic sensor chips that FOX Sports uses to highlight the hockey puck on television. I can think of two systems: chipped markers and chipped implements. Both systems would replace the laser-reflector system.

First, I will describe the chipped marker or markers. For the single chipped marker, one official that is out in the field would have a measuring stick similar to the one you use to hold the tape measure without having to bend over. However, this stick has a chip on the end. The official with the stick would put the stick at the mark and then press a button to receive and record the distance (or signal to the head judge, who pushed the button). The single chipped marker stick would be a slight improvement over the laser system because the marking official does not need to align the mirror or prism with the laser. It would reduce the dead time between throws by a few seconds.

But a better system might be to have many throw markers: one for each throw of the competition. Each marker is numbered. Now these are not the old (now illegal) markers with the big number signs that can be knocked out by a competitor. Rather, these markers are about the size of a golf tee, and they are completely inserted into the ground.

The advantage of having one marker per throw is that the official can simply insert the marker and leave. The official, head judge, and next thrower do not have to wait for a measurement; the receiver always senses the location of the inserted markers. Since they are so small, they do not serve as "targets," and they can be located, detected, and removed after the competition.

But the best system would be to imbed the chips into the actual thrown implements. For example, put a chip in the exact center of the disc, and the computer would automaticaly subtract the radius of the disc to get the distance to the closest edge. You could do the same for shot and hammer. For the javelin throw, you may need two chips: one in the head, and one in the center, to determine the angle of the javelin upon impact. Otherwise, the chip system may not be able to sense how deep the javelin is buried in the ground. Maybe there should be rule changes to record the aparrent distance under the assumption of a uniform ground penetration.

The advantage of chipping the implements themselves is that the distance thrown can be transmitted to the scoreboard the instant the implement lands. It would speed up the down time between throws, making the competition run faster, and it would also permit athletes to know the distance of fouled throws without causing additional work for the officials. The crowd could also be treated to the distance of warmup throws.

I still think that you should have officials out there to spot the point where the implement lands for backup in case the chip fails. An official would also have to remeasure record throws with a steel tape.

In any of these chip systems, we can also determine instantly and exactly how much higher or lower the landing point was from the circle surface. The current rules disallow records if the landing point was more than 1/1000 lower than the distance thrown. However, the chip allows for the possibility of measuring the distance at the instant when the implement is exactly level with the circle surface. Theoretically, throws could be adjusted for nonlevel landing sectors.

My recommendation is that the competition should still be determined by the impact point of all of the implements. Even though we try to make landing sectors level and fair, the terrain is a strategic element of the competition. Records should also stand as the impact distance unless the point of impact is more than 1/1000 times the total distance lower than the circle surface. If so, rather than throwing the mark out, the distance of the implement at the instant the implement crosses the level circle surface plane could be noted, as well as the actual impact distance. We still couldn't count this as an official record because you cannot remeasure a point in the air with steel tape.

As with the laser system, the chip systems instantly record the performance so that the official doesn't have to write anything down nor type anything in.

First, the technology would have to be adapted. For implementation, in the USATF outdoor championships, the men's and women's discus throws could serve as a testing ground. Conduct the competitions with implements that have imbedded chips. The meet is still officially measured using the laser triangulation device. However, the unofficial distance is transmitted instantly to the scoreboard. The accuracy and feasibility of the system is evaluated, then a decision is made whether to use the chip system as the official measuring system for future meets (with steel tape as a backup system).

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