World Athletics president Sebastian Coe praises pacemaking lights, says sport 'has to innovate'

Coe also argued that pacemakers had been around for decades, notably citing Roger Bannister's first sub-four-minute mile as a 'pace-made event'.

Agence France-Presse October 16, 2020 20:03:42 IST
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe praises pacemaking lights, says sport 'has to innovate'

File image of Sebastian Coe. Reuters

Gdynia: World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said Friday he embraced new track technology that features pacemaking lights, a system used to great effect in two stunning world records last week.

Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei (men's 10,000m) and Ethiopia's Letesenbet Gidey (women's 5,000m) blew two longstanding records apart in Valencia.

Both athletics had a team of metronomic pacemakers around them who utilised Wavelight technology — a trackside visual time guidance system which lights up to indicate the world record pace.

"You have to innovate, there's no question about that," Coe said in Gdynia, Poland, ahead of Saturday's world half-marathon races.

While acknowledging there was a balance to be struck, Coe argued that technological advances were paramount in attracting new audiences.

"You need to create a connection and the key connection is understanding," said the two-time Olympic 1500m gold medal winner for Britain, who set 12 world records in his career.

"I think it's really important that we use innovation so that we further and foster understanding.

"Pace lights I have no problem with. Our one-day meetings are about entertainment and I think Wavelight that allows people in the stadium, people on television, to understand a little bit more about the incredible talent, the incredible speeds our competitors are running at actually lends to the type of understanding I want."

Coe also argued that pacemakers had been around for decades, notably citing Roger Bannister's first sub-four-minute mile as a "pace-made event".

Saturday's races see Cheptegei again going for gold after an exceptional couple of years, although the half-marathon is the athlete's longest distance to date.

The Ugandan claimed the world cross-country title in Denmark and world 10,000m track gold in Doha last year.

Cheptegei opened the coronavirus -hit 2020 season with a world record in the 5km road race, in Monaco, in February.

He then sliced 1.99sec off Bekele's world 5,000m record, clocking a stunning 12:35.36, also in Monaco, in August, before lopping six seconds off Bekele's 10,000m world record when he timed 26:11.00 in Valencia last week.

"I feel good, I feel recovered and ready for the race," Cheptegei said of his debut outing.

Should Cheptegei emerge victorious from the 122 competitors, he would become just the second man in history after Moroccan Khalid Skah to win world titles in cross country, track and on the roads.

"I've been training well for the 5,000m, the 10,000m, but now it's the half marathon," the 24-year-old said.

"I know it comes just a few days after the world record, but I believe I'm a person of high talent and I can say it will be a nice challenge for me.

"I'm hungry for the title. I've shown in cross country, I've shown in the track, I've shown when it comes to attacking records, so the only thing now is to win a special title on the roads."

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