Track and field is the purest form of athleticism. It is a test of speed, strength and skill:who can run the fastest,jump the highest and throw the farthest. In fact,the Olympic motto ”Citius,Altius,Fortius” means “Swifter,Higher,Stronger”.
Athletics,as track and field is known, has probably been contested ever since humans first learned to walk upright.
Track and field consist of track or running events and field events,jumping and throwing. In today’s Olympic Games there are 15 running events and 8 field events.The running events are (in meters) 100, 200, 400, 800, 1 500, 5 000, 10 000, marathon, 110 high hurdles (100 for women), 400 hurdles, 4*100 and 4*400 relay,3 000 steeplechase (not a women’s event) and 20 000 and 50 000 walk (women compete only in a 10 000 meter walk).The fiel events are the long jump, high jump, triple jump, pole vault, shot put, discus, hammer throw and javelin.
Also, there is the decathlon for men and heptathlon for women – a blend of events that test not only the speed and strenght of an athlete, but his or her technical skill.The winner of the the Olympic decathlon is crowned as the “world’s greatest athlete”.
Among the earliest known track and field stars were Coroebus,winner of a 192 meter foot race in the Greek Games of 777 B.C., and a Spartan named Chionis, who in 656 B.C. long jumped 7.05 meters – track and field’s oldest known records.
With the revival of the Olympic Games in 1896, track and field entered a new era of popularity. Although its popularity has in recent years, waned in the U.S.,the sport is still as popular as ever in other coners of the world.
Why do people run? The American track coach Brutus Hamilton, a 1920 silver medalist in the decathlon, put it best: ”Men are completely and joyously happy in their simple tastes,their strong and well-conditioned bodies, and with the thrill of wholesome competition before them. These are the days of their youth,when they can run without weariness; these are their buoyant golden days; and they are running because they love it.”
Three sprints are contested in the Olympic Games: 100, 200 and 400 – meter race.The 100 m is run on a straight course while the others are run on a curved track.The winner of the Olympic 100 meters or the holder of the world record is crowned “the world’s fastest human”.Only one runner has ever capture all three events in the Olympic Games. Austrlian Betty Cuthbert turned this race trick by taking the 100m and 200m in 1956 and the 400m in 1964 year (golden medals).
The key to the sprints,particularly the 100m, is the quick start.Because the race is short, the runner who gets off quickly has a decided advantage. Canadian Ben Johnson, before his fall from grace as the fastest human in 1988, was known for his explosive start.Florence Griffith Joyner copied Johnson’s start and won two gold medals in Seoul, and set a world record in the 200m.
Sprinting has always been considered the domain of the U.S..Among the early great sprinters were americans John Owens,Jr.,who in 1890 became the first to crach the 10-second barrier in the 100 yards;Luther Cary, who held the 100-yard record for more than 11 years;and Tom Benke, who won the first Olympic gold medal in the 100 and 400 meters in 1896 and probably would have won the 200m, but the race was not contested until 1900.Jesse Owen’s effort in the 1936 Games, in which he won the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4*100 relay is considered the greatest performance by a track start in Olympic history, Carl Lewis matched that feat in 1984. Other outstanding U.S. sprinters include Charles Paddack, Jackson Scholz, Eddie Tolan, “Bullet” Bob Hayes and Jim Hines,the first men credited with 9.9s in the 100 meters. Hines also set the world record in 1968 with 9.95s,which was not broken until Lewis streaked to a 9.92s in 1988. There are some notable exceptions to U.S. dominance in the sprints. In 1960, West German,Armin Hary, the first man to run the 100 meters in 10 seconds,beat American Dave Sime. In 1992 it was Linford Christie’s turn to break the American dominance.
In the 400m Lee Evan’s 43.86, set in the high altitude of Mexico City,held up as the longest sprint record ever.It was finally broken by Butch Reynolds when in 1988 he ran a 43.29 in Zurich.Today, one of the premier male runners to have times of under 20 seconds in the 200m and under 44 seconds in the 400m. Johnson boasts “that I am probably the most consistent sprinter there has been”.