Keep one's distance; Q&A

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The Independent Online
Q. Why are athletic track races referred to as, for example, 100 metres and 5,000 metres when more specific metric alternatives such as one hectometre or five kilometres exist?

A: The hectometre is so rarely used that I'm sure I wasn't the only reader who'd forgotten how far it covered. It makes sense therefore to stick to the 100m, especially as a "century" is a time-honoured concept in sport.

As for longer races, I have heard of distance runners competing in the 5km or 10km. And walking events, whether on the track or road, are invariably the 20km or 50km rather than the 20,000m or 50,000m.

In Britain though, one must remember the confusion felt by many when we went partially metric. Thus those brought up on imperial measures can associate a metre as being a little more than a yard, and maybe translate accordingly. The kilometre, however, remains a puzzle, what with road signs and distances being in miles. - Tim Mickleburgh, Grimsby

Q. The 4.30 Flat race at Redcar on 22 June was won by Kamari at a starting price of 28-1 on. What is the longest odds-on price recorded for a winning horse?

A. Lester Piggott holds that record, winning the Premier Naviglio in Milan on 1 June 1967 on Dragon Blond, which was 10,000-1 on. At the other end of the scale, the longest winning odds recorded in British horse racing is 250-1 when Equinoctal won at Kelso on 21 November 1990. Owner-trainer Norman Miller was not surprised by his horse's success despite being beaten in his previous race by 62 lengths. Three winners of the Derby have been returned at odds of 100-1: Jeddah (1898), Signorinetta (1908) and Aboyeur (1894). One of the strangest of all Derby gambles took place on the 500- 1 outsider El Mighty in 1967. After the News of the World reported a reader'sdream in which El Mighty was the winner, the money poured on the horse, whose odds dropped until he was sixth favourite in the field of 22. With two furlongs to go, El Mighty headed the field, but gradually dropped back to finish 18th, much to the relief of bookies throughout Britain. - Chris Hunt, High Wycombe


Q. In women's athletics, is the absence of large (or even average-sized) breasts an absolute prerequisite for success? If so, is there any aerodynamic or other scientific reason for this or do they just literally get in the way of progress? Or is it merely that constant training leads to a permanent reduction in breast size? - Adrian Brodkin, London N2.

I have often read and heard references to horses "coming down to the distance" and "winning by a distance". Can anyone enlighten me as to how far that is? - Mr J Coleman, Cheltenham

Ivan Lendl last week competed in golf's Czech Open. Has there ever been a famous sportsperson who has risen to prominence in two sports, apart from the obvious ones in football and cricket? - B Patterson, Treorchy

Hull's Steve Craven was sent off in only the fifth minute of his side's recent rugby league match against Batley. Is this a record? - Mrs A Howarth, Sunderland

If you know the answers to any of these questions or have a question of your own, write to Q&A, Sports Desk, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL.

Fax: 0171-293 2894