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World renowned speed coach Bill Begg shares his vast knowledge of skating every week in his "Ask Bill Begg!" column on the Inline Planet.

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Nov. 10, 2010

What's the Best Position for Starting a Race?

QHi, Bill: I’ve noticed more and more male skaters use a crossover start in medium distances events (500m-20K). Not all of them use it, and few of the ladies do. But I'm wondering if it's really a better way to start or just something they do to show off? - Roee from Haifa, Israel

Hi, Roee: I’m not exactly sure what you mean by the crossover start, so I will simply review the starting methods used these days in international competition.

In individual time trials, skaters use the so-called Sarto start. You've probably seen the videos of this with the skaters swaying back and forth at the line before launching into their sprint.

This works well for time trials because these events are self-starting: the clock only begins ticking once the athlete’s body crosses an electronic beam at the starting line.

This start was introduced by Dr. Patrazio Sarto, who used it to win the 300-meter time trial in the 1984 World Championships in Bogota. Sarto was on quads, as were all the skaters at Worlds back then.

But today’s inline racers have also found the Sarto start to be the fastest way to get going in a time trial, and all serious competitors in time trials use this starting method.

But Sarto starts are no good for races with group starts, which at Worlds is all races of 500 meters or more. In these races, the start is signaled by a referee blowing a whistle or firing a pistol. The racers never know exactly at what moment the referee will give the signal. So they have to wait at the line in a stationary ready position.

Some racers chose to line up in a side-on position with both of their skates pointed to one side of the racecourse.

Others prefer the what is called the T-start position, which is similar to the T-stop, in which one foot is pointed forward and the other is pointed to the outside. In this position, skaters can quickly launch themselves by pushing off their back foot.

Hope that answers your question.

Cheers, Bill

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