Athletics: High achievers to become different class

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The Independent Online
THE International Amateur Athletic Federation is set to introduce two sets of world records - one for sea level and one for altitude, Primo Nebiolo, the president of the sport's governing body, announced here yesterday.

The proposal will be put before the IAAF council in the next few months and should be in place by 1997. It is designed to appease the critics, especially the Australian Federation, who are unhappy that the World Championships that year will be held in Mexico City at an altitude of 2,240 metres.

The Australians are concerned that by the time of the 2000 Sydney Olympics there would be a set of performances that were so unbeatable it would affect attendances, which depend on world records.

'This new list will reflect the concern that some people have shown,' Nebiolo said.

At the Mexico Olympics in 1968, the sprinters and jumpers, benefiting from the thinner air that meant their muscles did not require so much oxygen, shredded the record books. Among the world records broken were the 100, 200 and 400m, and the long jump in which Bob Beamon cleared 8.90m - a record that stood until 1991.

Peter Matthews, the editor of Athletics 1994, the sport's Wisden, believes performances set at stadiums situated over 1,000m are 'freaks and clearly assisted in the way a tail wind helps a sprinter'. Statisticians have for several years been putting the letter 'A' next to such marks to indicate they were achieved at altitude. In contrast, distance runners are adversely affected by altitude because of the lack of oxygen.

All the current world sprint records, including Leroy Burrell's recent 100m record of 9.85sec, were achieved at sea level. The exception is the men's 200m held by Pietro Mennea, of Italy, who ran 19.72sec in Mexico City in 1979.

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