Track and field Olympic performances in perspective

Posted to Infographics  |  Tags: , ,  |  Nathan Yau

We’ve been hearing Olympic records rattled off for the past week, but it’s hard to grasp just how great these athletes are performing. I mean, we know they’re doing amazing things, but just how amazing? Kevin Quealy and Graham Roberts for The New York Times put it into perspective with two videos, one on the long jump and the other on the 100-meter sprint.

After I watched each, all I could think was, “Oh crap, that’s good.”

The videos frame distances and times in a way that’s immediately relatable, such as a basketball court to show how far medals winners jumped or how far previous sprinters would be behind Usain Bolt. Smooth transitions move you through different perspectives and pauses give focus to the most notable athletes, and although each video covers a lot of information, you never feel disoriented. They cover the overall picture, down to the individual, and back again.

Good stuff. Give ’em a watch.


  • David Smith August 6, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Very cool. But I did wonder for the long jump one if there was any meaning to the position of the jumper figures. Would have been cool to use that to represent wind speed or running speed, but the video didn’t suggest any meaning to them.

  • These are wonderful. Combining data with storytelling that engages, delights, and surprises. The video combined with the Interactive visualization is a great touch. Rather than just putting the visualization out there and expecting the reader to understand, they offer background and context and draw you in. The NYTimes crew continues to prove themselves to be best-in-class at this.

    They also did one on the men’s 100M Freestyle:

  • The 100-meter dash video includes an interesting use of audio at the end. A note sounds each time someone crosses the virtual finish line, accompanied by a flash showing which of the runners finished. This is an excellent illustration of the small time intervals being discussed.

  • Nice. Making the number of US athletes a point of analysis is weird, though, especially because it is dropped as an inconsequential fact. Also, I smirked mirthlessly when they mention improved nutrition, fitness, track and everything in the sprinter video, but not doping.


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