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- This article refers to the British English definition of Athletics that is limited in scope to sporting events that in American English are known as "Track and Field". Thus, Track and Field redirects here. If you are looking for the American English definition of the word "athletics", which is used to categorise all sports, please see the article entitled Sport.
Athletics, also known as track and field or track and field athletics, is a collection of sport events. The word is derived from the Greek word "athlos" meaning "contest". It is a collection of sport events, which can roughly be divided into running, throwing, and jumping.
Athletics was the original sport at the first Olympics back in 776 BC where the only event held was the stadium-length foot race or "stade". The earliest recorded win was at these games in the stade race.
There were several other "Games" held throughout Europe in later eras:
- The Pythian Games (founded 527 BC) held in Delphi every four years
- The Nemean Games (founded 516 BC) held in Argolid every two years
- The Isthmian (founded 523 BC) held on the Isthmus of Corinth every two years (one year being that which followed the Olympics)
- The Roman Games — a direct imitation of the Greek Olympics, however was a much more popularised spectacle, with most competitors likely to have been professional athletes (the Greek Olympics was more a common-man's fare). Many themes of the Roman Circus (chariot races, gladiatorial combats and wild animal displays) were incorporated into the Roman Games asides from athletic sports.
Other peoples enjoyed athletic contests, such as the Celts, Teutons and Goths who succeeded the Romans. However these were often relegated to training to war, and were not very well organised. In the Middle Ages the sons of noblemen would be trained in running, leaping and wrestling, in addition to riding, jousting and arms-training. Contests between rivals and friends would no doubt have been common on both official and unofficial grounds.
Many athletic sports have found favour in Europe throughout the ages. However, at least in Britain, they fell out favour between the 13th and 16th centuries due to Government restrictions on sports aiming to reduce the practice of archery. After this ban was lifted in the 17th century sports began to flourish once more, but it was not until until the 19th century that organisation begain to appear. This included the incorporation of regular sports and exercise into school regimes. The Royal Military College, Sandhurst being one of the first to adopt this in 1812, public schools not following until about 1840.
Modern athletic events are usually organised around a 400 m running track, on which most of the running events take place. Field events (jumping and throwing) often take place in the field in the centre of the running track.
Many athletic events have an ancient origin and were already conducted in competitive form by the ancient Greeks. Athletics was included in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and has been part of the program ever since, providing the backbone of the Olympics. Women were not allowed to participate in track and field events in the Olympics until 1928.
An international governing body, the IAAF was founded in 1912. The IAAF established separate outdoor World Championships in 1983. The AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) was the governing body in the United States until it collapsed under pressure from advancing professionalism in the late 1970s. A new governing body called The Athletics Congress (TAC) was formed, it was later renamed USA Track and Field (USATF or USA T&F). An additional, less structured organization, the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) also exists in the USA to promote road racing. Both organizations allow athletes to receive money for racing putting an end to the "shamateurism" that existed before.
Indoor track & field
There are two seasons for track & field. There is an indoor season, run during the winter and an outdoor season, run during the spring. Most indoor tracks are 200 meters, however, there are smaller tracks that measure 180 meters (less common) and larger tracks that measure 300 meters. The indoor track consists of six running lanes instead of eight or ten like on an outdoor track. However, where the 60 meter race is held on the track can be expanded to eight. In an indoor track meet the same events are held as an outdoor meet with the exception of the 60 meter race, sometimes there is a 55 meter race.
There are other variations besides the ones listed below but races of unusual length (e.g. 300 m) are run much less often. With the exception of the mile run, races based on imperial distances are rarely run on the track anymore since most tracks have been converted from a quarter mile (402.3 m) to 400 meters.
Men and women do not compete against each other. Women generally run the same distances as men although hurdles and steeplechase barriers are lower and the weights of the shot, discus, javelin and hammer are less. Is Track and Field sexist?
- Track events - running events conducted on a 400 meter track.
- Sprints: events up to and including 400 m. Common events are 60 m, 100 m, 200 m and 400 m.
- Middle distance: events from 800 m to 3000 m, especially 800 m, 1500 m, mile and 3000 m.
- steeplechase - a race (usually 3000 m) in which runners must negotiate barriers and water jumps.
- Long distance: runs over 5000 m. Common events are 5000 m and 10000 m.
- Hurdling: 110 m high hurdles (100 m for women) and 400 m intermediate hurdles (300 m in high school).
- Relays: 4 x 100 m, 4 x 400 m, 4 x 200 m, 4 x 800 m, etc. Some events, such as medley relays, are rarely run except at large relay carnivals.
- Road running: conducted on open roads, but often finishing on the track. Common events are half-marathon and marathon.
- Race walking: usually conducted on open roads. Common events are 10 km, 20 km and 50 km.
- Field events
- Composite events
Note : Two record distances are given for the men's javelin event ; this is because in the 1980s, the men's event was throwing at distances which caused many "flat landings" and judges at the event were having trouble discerning the exact point at which the javelin had landed and whether the throw was legal. In 1985, the specs of the javelin were changed by moving the centre of gravity forward by 4 cm.
|100 m||10.49 s||Florence Griffith Joyner (USA)||July 16, 1988||Indianapolis, Ind., USA|
|200 m||21.34s||Florence Griffith Joyner (USA)||Sept 29, 1988||Seoul, S. Korea|
|400 m||47.60||Marita Koch (E. Germany)||Oct 6, 1985||Canberra, Australia|
|800 m||1:53.28||Jarmila Kratochvílová (Czechoslovakia)||July 26, 1983||Munich, W. Germany|
|1000 m||2:28.98||Svetlana Masterkova (Russia)||Aug 23, 1996||Brussels, Belgium|
|1500 m||3:50.46||Qu Junxia (China)||Sept 11, 1993||Beijing, China|
|2000 m||5:25.36||Sonia O'Sullivan (Rep. Ireland)||July 8, 1994||Edinburgh, Scotland|
|3000 m||8:06.11||Wang Junxia (China)||Sept 13, 1993||Beijing, China|
|5000 m||14:24.68||Elvan Abeylegesse (Turkey)||June 11, 2004||Bergen, Norway|
|10,000 m||29:31.78||Wang Junxia (China)||Sept 8, 1993||Beijing, China|
|20,000 m||1:05:26.6||Tegla Loroupe (Kenya)||Sept 3, 2000||Borgholzhausen , Germany|
|25,000 m||1:27:05.8||Tegla Loroupe (Kenya)||Sept 21, 2002||Mengerskirchen , Germany|
|30,000 m||1:45:50.0||Tegla Loroupe (Kenya)||June 7, 2003||Warstein , Germany|
|9:01.59||Gulnara Samitova , (Russia)||July 4, 2004||Heraklion, Greece|
|100 m hurdles||12.21 s||Yordanka Donkova (Bulgaria)||Aug 20, 1988||Stara Zagora, Bulgaria|
|400 m hurdles||52.34s||Yuliya Pechenkina (Russia)||Aug 8, 2003||Tula, Russia|
|High jump||2.09 m||Stefka Kostadinova (Bulgaria)||Aug 30, 1987||Rome, Italy|
|Pole vault||4.92 m||Yelena Isinbayeva (Russia)||Sep 3, 2004||Brussels, Belgium|
|Long jump||7.52 m||Galina Chistyakova (USSR)||June 11, 1988||Leningrad, USSR|
|Triple jump||15.50||Inesa Kravets (Ukraine)||Aug 10, 1995||Göteborg, Sweden|
|Shot put||22.63||Natalya Lisovskaya (USSR)||June 7, 1987||Moscow, USSR|
|Discus||76.80||Gabriele Reinsch (E. Germany)||July 9, 1988||Neubrandenburg, E. Germany|
|Hammer throw||75.97 m||Mihaela Melinte (Romania)||May 13, 1999||Clermont-Ferrand, France|
|Javelin **||71.54 m (New style)|
80.00 m (Old style)
|Osleidys Menéndez (Cuba)|
Petra Felke , GDR
|July 1, 2001|
September 9, 1988
|Heptathlon||7291 pts||Jackie Joyner-Kersee (USA)||Sept 23-24, 1988||Seoul, S. Korea|
|12.69s (100 m hurdles), 1.86 m (high jump), 15.80 m (shot put), 22.56s (200 m), 7.27 m (long jump),|
45.66 m (javelin), 2:08.51 (800 m)
|Decathlon||8366 pts||Austra Skujyte (Lithuania)||14 April-15 April, 2005||Columbia, Mo., USA|
|12.45 s (100 m), 46.19 m (discus), 3.10 m (pole vault), 48.78 m (javelin), 57.19 s (400 m),|
14.22 s (100 m hurdles), 6.12 m (long jump), 16.42 m (shot put), 1.78 m (high jump), 5:15.86 (1500 m)
|5 km walk||20:02.60||Gillian O'Sullivan (Rep. of Ireland)||July 13, 2002||Dublin, Ireland|
|10 km walk||41:56.23||Nadezhda Ryashkina (USSR)||July 24, 1990||Seattle, Wa., USA|
|4x100 m Relay||41.37||Silke Gladisch , Sabine Rieger ,|
Ingrid Auerswald , Marlies Göhr
|Oct 6, 1985||Canberra, Australia|
|4x200 m Relay||1:27.46||LaTasha Jenkins ,|
LaTasha Colander-Richardson ,
Nanceen Perry , Marion Jones (USA)
|April 29, 2000||Philadelphia, Pa., USA|
|4x400 m Relay||3:15.17||Tatyana Ledovskaya , Olga Nazarova ,|
Mariya Pinigina , Olga Bryzgina (USSR)
|Oct 1, 1988||Seoul, S. Korea|
|4x800 m Relay||7:50.17||Nadezhda Olizarenko ,|
Lyubov Gurina , Lyudmila Borisova ,
Irina Podyalovskaya (USSR)
|Aug 5, 1984||Moscow, USSR|
|Marathon||2:15:25||Paula Radcliffe (UK)||April 13, 2003||London, England, UK|
Note: As with the men's event, the specification of the women's javelin has been changed. On April 1, 1999 the IAAF moved the centre of gravity forward by 3 cm in order to ensure a greater number of legal throws and to allow for more accurate distance measurement.
- Olympic medalists in athletics (men)
- Olympic medalists in athletics (women)
- World Record progression 100 m men
- World Record progression in athletics 100 m women
- World record progression for the mile run
- Athletics records pdf full text
- World Record progression in athletics
- Track and Field all-time performances
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