Plasticine and Prisms

The third day of the Anniversary Games was devoted to Paralympic athletes and the final of the IPC Grand Prix attracted many of the world’s top athletes. Sadly the weather took a turn for the worse and was grey and damp.

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The crowd was much smaller than for the first two days of the Games. But what they lacked in numbers they made up for in enthusiasm and support for the athletes. And they had a lot to cheer with many victories for British athletes, including new world records for sprinters Georgina Hermitage and Sophie Hahn. But the biggest cheers were for Richard Whitehead who again came from behind to win the T42 200m.

I had two judging duties today, both on the long jump. This was good news as the new extended stadium roof meant that the long jump area was sheltered from the rain.

My first duty was to repair the no jump indicator in the women’s T42/44 long jump. These categories are for single leg amputees, with the lower numbers signifying a greater degree of disability. Because the competition included athletes from different categories, the result is based on a points system. This means that the athlete jumping the furthest does not necessarily win the competition. This proved to be the case today as Martina Caironi of Italy won with a jump of 4.33m, scoring 994 points for a T42 athlete, even though runner up Marlene Van Gansewinkel of the Netherlands jumped a T44 world record of 4.62m as that only scored 638 points. From my point of view it was a quiet competition as there were only a few no jumps and I only had to repair the plasticine boards four times.

For the men’s T42/44 long my duty was to operate the EDM (Electronic Distance Measurement) equipment. This is a surveyor’s theodolite programmed to measure the distance of jumps by bouncing a beam off a prism on a spike placed in the mark in the sand by another official. The photo below shows the equipment I was using today.

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After each jump I pointed the EDM at the prism using a viewfinder and pressed a button to measure and record the distance. Another official entered the distance into a computer that drives the results and electronic display boards. The process is very quick and very accurate – far better than measuring with a tape. The VDM equipment that we used on Friday was not available today and is only used at a few high level meetings.

The men’s long jump was won by the athlete who jumped the furthest. T44 world record holder Markus Rehm of Germany’s jump of 7.83m putting him well clear of the rest of the field in terms of both distance and points. Rehm’s jump would have placed him 7th in yesterday’s Diamond League long jump for able bodied athletes – a remarkable performance for an amputee.

I don’t have many photos today as I was on judging duty throughout the meeting. As officials we  are not allowed to use phones or cameras when we are on duty. I am writing this final instalment from the Anniversary Games on the train back to Chester after a very enjoyable weekend. When the Anniversary Games return to the Olympic Stadium next summer it will look very different as the retractable seating will have been installed ready for the 2016-17 football season and West Ham’s arrival.

Bring me Sunshine…

Thankfully the weather took a turn for the better today – warm, sunny and, most importantly, dry. The Stadium looked much better bathed in sunshine.

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Competition started early with the men’s pole vault rearranged after being rained off last night. The decision to postpone the event prived to be right as the athletes responded well to the improved conditions. Olympic Champion Renauld Lavillenie of France won with a vault of 6.03m and runner up Shawn Barber broke the Canadian record. The stadium gradually filled as the pole vault progressed and there was a good crowd to cheer Lavillenie’s winning vault.

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The programme for Diamond League athletic meetings  is geared towards spectators and TV audiences with events compressed into a 3 hour period. This means that field judges usually just get one duty. Today mine was implement control in the women’s javelin.  This involves recirding which javelin is used by each athlete for each throw of the competition. If records are broken in the throwing events the implements are checked again after the competition to confirm that they fully comply with the specifications set out in the rules. So it is important to record who has thrown which implement.

The athletes could choose from a ‘pool’ of  15 javelins. Six of these were provided by the stadium and the remainder belonged to competing athletes. In international competitions the athletes can use any javelin in the pool, including those belonging to other competitors. We did not get any records today but it proved to be a good contest with Latvian Palameika Madara beating Czech Barbora Spotakova by just one centimetre.

The large crowd enjoyed a great day’s athletics with British records and wins and some great races. Tomorrow it’s the turn of the paralympians, but the weather forecast suggests the rain may be back.

Back to the Olympic Stadium

This weekend I am back at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. This time I am a field judge at the Anniversary Games. This is a Diamond League Grand Prix meeting over two days plus the IPC (Paralympic) Grand Prix Final on Sunday.

Since I was last at the Stadium for the first Anniversary Games two years ago there have been few changes in preparation for West Ham’s arrival next year. The roof has been extsnded and much building work is still going on. The next phase will include building retractable seating that will cover the track during the football season.

Today we were greeted by heavy rain as we walked to the Stadium from Stratford Station.

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After picking up my accreditation and finding my way into the Stadium I eventually found the Officials’ room. There I found that my judging duty for the evening was ‘VDM reading verification’ on the women’s triple jump. VDM is video distance measurement – the distance of each jump is measured by computer by moving a cursor on the screen to the athlete’s mark in the sand. My job was to check that the computer operator had lined up the cursor correctly before confirming and recording the distance.

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We did this in a room in the bowels of the stadium about 100 metres away from the event site. This would normally not seem a very attractive judging duty but, in view of the weather, the prospect of sitting in a dry room was very attractive!

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Because I was so far from the event I kept in touch with my fellow officials by radio. They told me if there was a ‘no jump’ and I told them when it was OK to rake the pit ready for the next athlete.

When I left the video room at the end of the event I walked past the ‘mixed zone ‘ where Usain Bolt and Mo Farah were being interviewed. The price of a job in the dry was that I missed the athletics and the atmosphere in the Stadium. However on Saturday I am working on the men’s javelin and will be outdoors. And the weather forecast is good!

The Last Post

Saturday 23rd August was the final day of the IPC European Championships in Swansea. It was another early start for the Technical Team with two additional seated shot put throwing sectors to set up. This also meant moving the famous shot return chute to the other end of the infield – a five person job!

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Throughout the day we gradually cleared sites and packed away equipment. Our tent, which you see below, had to be cleared by Sunday morning. Athletes also collected personal throwing implements, wheelchairs and throwing frames, which had been stored in out tent.

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In the morning I looked after the long jump, in particular ensuring the take-off board was stable and the plasticine no-jump indicators were prepared. There was a very large crowd of spectators for the men’s T42/44 long jump for amputees. The attraction was the T44 world champion and world record holder Markus Rehm of Germany. Rehm, who competes with a ‘blade’ on his right leg, recently smashed his own world record when he won the German able bodied championships with a jump of 8.24 metres.  Windy conditions made jumping difficult and Rehm’s leap of 7.63m, which you can see below,  was enough to take the gold medal.

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In the afternoon session I was looking after the shot put site, which is located next to the discus cage. This meant I had a front row seat for the men’s F42 discus, in which Wales’s Aled Sion Davies won his second gold medal of the Championships. Whilst this event was on there was a frantic period of activity for a few of my colleagues as they prepared the track for the T11/12 visually impaired 4x100m relay. To allow for the guide runners, each team has two lanes and so the take-over boxes must be extended over both lanes. This involves laying 24 strips of gaffer tape on the four corners of the track in a very short period of time and then removing them straight after the race.

Whilst it has been an exhausting week it has also been enjoyable. I have enjoyed working with my colleagues in the Technical Team, the other officials and the volunteers. We have had a good rapport with the athletes and have seen many excellent performances. Now it’s time for some rest and recovery.

This is my final post from the Swansea IPC European Championships, but I will continue blogging on my athletics officiating experiences in the future.

Records, Medals and Sunshine

Just a short post tonight as it’s getting late.  Tonight the Technical Team invited the four volunteers who have worked with us all week to join us for dinner. We could not have done our jobs without their commitment and support. They have checked in equipment,  organised the wheelchair and throwing frame storage area within our tent and helped out with numerous other tasks. We have also been helped by about 20 Young Ambassadors from the Swansea area. They have worked as tie down teams on the seated throws, helped to take equipment to and from events and assisted our four adult volunteers. A huge number of volunteers have been an important for in making the Championships a success.

Today the weather has been good and there have been a large number of world records and gold medals for the British team. Here are the flags during the medal ceremony for the T34 wheelchair 800m won by Hannah Cockcroft with Mel Nicholls taking the silver medal.

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Tomorrow is the final day of competition so I better get some sleep as we will have a busy day tidying sites and collecting equipment as events finish.

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Creations, Classifications and Flying Tents (almost)

First an apology for the typos in yesterday’s post. I’m afraid that by the time I finish writing my blog, sleep has become a higher priority than proofreading.

I have already written about Bob the Builder’s wonderful shot return chute. Here is another of his creations – a long jump distance marker board. This was also created here in Swansea when the  board expected to be delivered did not appear. In this photo it is seen during the T20 women’s long jump.

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Mentioning the T20 long jump raises the matter of classification in Paralympic sport. Athletes are classified into groups for competition based on the nature and extent of their disability. In athletics there are six classes,  each prefixed with ‘T’ for track events and jumps and ‘F’ for other field events:
Classes 11-13 have visual impairment.
Class 20 have an intellectual impairment.
Classes 31 -38 have cerebral palsy.
Classes 40-41 have short stature.
Classes 42-47 have amputations or similar limb deficiencies but compete standing.
Classes 51-57 compete in wheelchairs.

The lower thenumber in each class, the higher the level of disability. For example, in the visually impaired classification, T/F11s have no vision and compete with guides and wearing a blinfold. T/F 12s and 13s have better levels of  vision. Below is the men’s T11 5000m final taking place today.

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Athletes are frequently assessed and classified to ensure they are  competing in the appropriate group for their level of disability.

Today I laid lots more throwing sectors and distance arcs and set up and monitored long jump and shot put events. The F42 shot puts was won by local hero Aled Sion Davies. During the event there was a period of heavy rain and strong wind. If you look at the photo of the shot return in yesterday’s post you will see a tent in the background. The shot putters were sheltering under this tent and the wind got so strong that I and one of the other Clerks spent about 30 minutes holding onto it until heavier weights could be attached to the tent!

The weather forecast is better for the final two days of the championships.  I hope the forecast is right!

Wonderful Creations

A couple of posts ago I mentioned a shot put return chute created by my fellow Clerk of Course ‘Bob the Builder’. This wonderful creation has been generating quite a lot of interest, both amongst officials here at Swansea and further afield. I thought you might like to this work of art, which cost about £150 in materials and was assembled in a vew hours in the Technical Team’s working area.

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The other woderful creations I have seen today are the throwing frames (or chairs) used by athletes in the seated throw events. The frames are usually hand crafted from bits of metal and made to fit the particular needs of each athlete. They are often wierd contraptions comprising odd bits of metal, gaffer tape and straps. There are strict rules about the shape, size and struture of the frames and they must be checked and approved before the competition. Rejected frames are often modified on the spot by athletes or coaches in order to get them within the criteria set out in the rules. This photo shows a few frames in one of today’s seated javelin events.

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Today I worked on two seated throwing events. My role included supervising the ‘tie-down teams’ – four or five young volunteers who  attach the throwing frames to metal bars bolted down on the throwing circle using adjustable ratchet straps. The frames must be fixed very securely so they do not move at all as the athlete throws. My teams worked very well to ensure the athletes were all happy that their frames were secured in exactly the right position. We were rewarded by seeing world best performances in both events. This photo shows how the frame is attached using several straps.

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Today was not as exhausting as yesterday, but it’s still time I logged off to get a few hours sleep before another early start tomorrow.

The Longest Day

My colleagues at work and I sometimes think we work hard and put in some long hours. Hmm… let me tell you about my day today.

It was the first day of the European Paralympic Athletics Championships in Swansea and we knew the Technical Team would be busy setting up for the first session. Here’s how our day went:

5.30 a.m.   Alarm goes off.
6.00  Breakfast
6.35  Arrive at the stadium and spend a frantic 2 hours getting ready for the first events starting at 9.00.
9.00 – 1.00 p.m. During the first session we each monitor an event in case of problems and as one event finishes get the site ready for the next event. This often involves setting new sectors and arcs for the throws.
1.00 -2.00 Tidy sites and rrack after the morning session and start preparing for the afternoon session.
2.00 – 2.30  Lunch!
2.30 – 3.30 Finish preparations for the afernoon session.
3.30 – 8.00 Monitor events and prepare sites between events.
8.00 – 9.00 After the evening session ends we collect the equipment in and srart preparing for tomorrow before returning to the hotel.
9.30 – 11.00 Dinner
11.00 – 11.30 Write this blog.
11.30 Get some sleep before another 5.30 a.m. alarm call tomorrow morning.

This pattern will be the same for the next four days. My pedometer tells me that I walked 30,000 steps or 16.2miles today. I think it’s time I got some sleep!

Here’s what the stadium looked like this morning as competition got under way.

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Almost Ready

It’s the night before the first day of the IPC European Athletics Championships in Swansea. The Technical Team has been on-site for four days already, preparing for the event. Yesterday and today my jobs have included preparing take-off boards fot the long and triple jumps; measuring and preparing tapes for throwing sectors and arcs; preparing boxes of equipment for each event; and a variety of ‘odd jobs’ fixing and moving equipment and solving problems.

Problem solving skills are an essential attribute for Technical Team members. If any items of equipment are unavailabe, unsuitable or broken, we are expected to come up with a solution. For example, we were expecting a shot put return chute to be delivered to Swansea from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, but it has not arrived. One of my colleagues, now nicknamed Bob the Builder, has built a return chute from scratch using wood from a local builders merchant. It isa  atter of pride to come up with a solution for any challenges thrown at us.

Because the opening ceremony was held at the stadium this evening, we could not prepare any of the event sites for tomorrow. With the first events starting at 9.00 a.m. we will have a very early start tomorrow morning. Between 6.30 and 9.00 we will mark out three throwing sectors, prepare the long jump pit, deliver and set out the equipment for four field event sites and the track.By the time athletes, officials and spectators arrive at about 9.00, we will ensure everything is ready and in place. We will then be on standby to deal with any problems and to tidy sites and bring out new equipment between events. When the  morning session finishes at about 1.00 p.m. we will have a couple of hours to tidy sites and prepare equipment for the afternoon session starting at 3.00. With a bit of luck we may get a lunch break!

The stadium is now bedecked in banners and hoardings and full of cables, cameras and broadcasting equipment.  l’m logging off now to get a few hours sleep before what promises to be a very busy day.

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Working On The Line Gang

For most of yesterday and today I have been marking out throwing sectors. At the IPC European Championships there will be six throwing sectors for Shot Put, Discus, Javelin and Club Throw events. For each event there is a specified sector within which the implement must land. The sectors, extending up to 70 metres from the throwing area, must be marked out precisely using white tape and steel pins.

Measuring and marking the sectors involves some basic geometry and the use of several steel tapes. Here are three of my colleagues marking out a discus sector. (I am holding the ends of the tapes in the throwing circle).

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Within each sector we willalso mark out distance arcs. These will vary depending on the distances the competitors are expected to throw and so will need to change for each event. On each day of competition we will need to lift and lay several sector lines and arcs as we switch between events. This can involve quick change-overs when, for example, a discus throw is followed by a javelin and several long sector and arc tapes need to be changed.

The tent in which we are based is now a fully equipped workshop and equipment room, as you can see from this photo:

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More officials are arriving daily and by Monday there will be over 100 of us. There are also a large number of athletes here now and part of our role is to ensure they have access to equipment and sites for training. The Technical Team has two more days of preparation before competition starts on Tuesday morning, but we have to plan our work around the times when the athletes are  using the track and field event sites for training.