Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The steeplechase was initially a form of horse-racing, but the term is now applied to similar other events as well.
Steeplechase in Horse-racing
The steeplechase is a form of horse-racing (primarily conducted in the United Kingdom) and derives its name from early races in which orientation of the course was by reference to a church steeple, jumping fences and ditches and generally traversing the many intervening obstacles in the countryside.
Steeplechase in Track and Field
The steeplechase is also an obstacle race in athletics (track and field), which derives its name from the horse-racing equivalent.
The length of the race is usually 3000 m, seven and one half laps of the track. In the first half lap runners encounter no barriers. In each subsequent lap the runners encounter five hurdles. According to IAAF rules, hurdle height is 914 mm (36 in) for men and 762 mm (30 in) for women. Unlike those used in hurdling, steeplechase hurdles do not fall over if hit; some runners actually step on top of them. Four of the hurdles are on level ground, and the fifth hurdle at the top of the second turn is the water jump, which consists of a hurdle followed by a pit of water which is 3.66 m (12 ft) long and slopes upward from 700 mm (27.6 in) deep at the hurdle end to even with the surface of the track. This slope rewards runners with more jumping ability, for they land in more shallow water. Most runners can completely "clear" (jump over) the water pit.
The steeplechase originated in Ireland in the 18th century as an analogue to cross-country horse races which went from town steeple to town steeple, hence "steeplechase". The first steeplechase was alleged to have been the result of a wager in 1752 and involved a race between the church steeples of Doneraile and Buttevant, towns in Cork, Ireland. Most of the earlier steeplechases were contested cross-country rather than on a track and resembled English cross country as it exists today. The steeplechase (at varying distances) has been an Olympic event since the inception of the modern Olympics. Since the 1968 Summer Olympics the steeplechase in the Olympics has been dominated by Kenyan athletes, including a sweep of the medals at the 2004 Games.
The official world record in the 3000 m steeplechase for men is held by Saif Saaeed Shaheen of Qatar (formerly Stephen Cherono of Kenya) at 7:53.63 and was set on September 3, 2004 during the Ivo Van Damme Memorial in Brussels. On August 16, 2002 Brahim Boulami of Morocco ran 7:53.17 but as of September 2004 this was still awaiting ratification from the IAAF. Said ratification is likely not forthcoming, as Boulami is only now (2005) returning to competition after a two year ban for testing positive for EPO.
Other Sports With Steeplechase Events
The steeplechase is also an event in dog agility involving racing over hurdles and other obstacles.
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