Meaning: A small handgun used for signalling the start of a race; starting pistol or starting gun.
Starting pistol or starting gun is used in track-and-field and swim meets to start races. Once a pistol is fired, the sound and smoke are the signals. How do Deaf athletes and swimmers hear the starting gun? Here are some stories.
First, the hand signal (moving down from high) is very common. That means Deaf athletes twisted their heads and watched a person making the gesture. It means they started a split second late.
Deaf swimmer and Olympics silver medalist Terence Parkins told his story: Hand signal was used for a while. Then a person had an idea. A plastic cup was put over the pistol gun and it would be blown away when fired. What a brilliant idea! However, over a time, it was no longer used, so hand signal was reverted to. Over time, then light flasher was installed for hearing timers. Terence asked the officials to move the flasher to the position so Terence could use it as a starter signal. Eventually, an official helped set up flasher beside the starter stand for Terence.
Deaf swimmer and Deaflympics medalist Jolanta Lapiak's story: "In the beginning, I watched the gun smoke (primarily) and/or the swimmers' movement (secondarily). Hearing swim mates looked at me as a "slow" starter because of my deafness. As I quickly climbed faster and faster in no time, I saw that virtually all high-level swim meets had an electronic time result board which was always connected to a light flasher with the pistol gun. I was so delightful! To their surprise, I was the fastest starter. A comeback to those who looked at me as a slow starter. I suspected that to their contrary belief, being Deaf has an advantage for a fast response due to large neuroplasticity of visual and tactile region in the brain as my "hearing" region of the brain is replaced for enhanced visual-tactile mode. Based on stories and experiences, it appears that this strobe light flasher was provided much earlier in Canada than in other countries. At Deaflympics 1989 in New Zealand, I lost a split second or so thus a gold medal in the fast-speed 100m butterfly due to a poor starter system so a silver medal by a split second had been a nightmare. :) But, I still won a gold medal and world record in 200m butterfly that the fast start was not as important as endurance. But, this still didn't justify a compensation for the nightmare of 100m butterfly solely because of the crucial start.
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