Biomechanical analysis of Abderrahman Samba's 46.98s at 400m hurdles

>> July 01, 2018

Abderrahman Samba of Qatar has gone sub 47s in the men's 400m hurdles to win the IAAF Diamond League in Paris yesterday (30 June 2018).

He became the second man in history to achieve the feat, which is also quicker than the 47.02s mark - the second-fastest 400m hurdles time ever that was recorded by track legend Edwin Moses of the USA. The former world record mark was set in 1983 at Koblenz, Germany. Interestingly, this mark was matched by an American youngster Rai Benjamin during the NCAA championships 3 weeks ago. Kevin Young of the USA holds the world record of 46.78s that he set en-route to winning the Olympic Gold in 1992.

This article observed the differences between the first three finishers. Therefore, it provides the most commonly used parameters of the low and high hurdles when it comes to coaching such as the time per interval, number of strides per interval, distribution of effort (first 200m and second 200m), time at 300m, and the time difference between the fastest and slowest interval.

Table 1. Split and interval times for first 3 finishers, marked yellow = leading performer

 Table 2. Number of intermediate hurdle steps

  • Abderahman Samba recorded his 6th sub 48s and first sub 47s in the 400m hurdles, after his first sub-48 run of 47.90A (at Potchefstroom, in April), then 47.57 (Doha, May), 47.48 (Rome, May), 47.60 (Oslo, Jun), and 47.41 (Stockholm, Jun).
  • Samba used a 13-stride rhythm into 14-stride-rhythm strategy (switched at the 7-8 interval) to better maintain his velocity during the last 100m,
  • Kyron McMaster started with 20 strides into the first hurdle, and used 12-stride rhythm (rare) in the 1-2 interval. Kevin Young (1.93m height) had 12-13 stride rhythm in the past. 
  • Karsten Warholm completed the 9-10 interval using a 15-stride rhythm, which was as a result of his 13 strides in the previous interval (not ideal, causing over-stride of the last step). It affected the tempo (and times!), he should have used 14 instead (in the 8-9).
  • Race distribution: the typical time difference between the first and second 200m is approximately 2.4s to 2.6s (for a good 400m hurdler). Samba' first 200m of 22.23s has produced a difference of 2.52s, which is ideal. The time difference for McMaster and Warhold were 3.22s and 3.26s, respectively (typically observed in women; but not ideal for men).
  • The times at 300m mark were 34.12s, 34.20s, and 34.28s (rather "similar") for Samba, McMaster, and Warholm, respectively.
  • The fastest-slowest interval for Samba, McMaster, and Warhold were 0.90s, 1.06s, and 1.32s. The ideal difference is ~0.9s (for men).

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