Category: Athletics

Track and field

A variety of running events are held on the track which fall into three broad distance categories: sprints, middle-distance, and long-distance track events. Relay races feature teams comprising four runners each, who must pass a baton to their teammate after a specified distance with the aim of being the first team to finish. Hurdling events and the steeplechase are a variation upon the flat running theme in that athletes must clear obstacles on the track during the race. The field events come in two types – jumping and throwing competitions. In throwing events, athletes are measured by how far they hurl an implement, with the common events being the shot put, discus, javelin, and hammer throw. There are four common jumping events: the long jump and triple jump are contests measuring the horizontal distance an athlete can jump, while the high jump and pole vault are decided on the height achieved. Combined events, which include the decathlon (typically competed by men) and heptathlon (typically competed by women), are competitions where athletes compete in a number of different track and field events, with each performance going toward a final points tally.

The most prestigious track and field contests occur within athletics championships and athletics programmes at multi-sport events. The Olympic athletics competition and World Championships in Athletics, and the Paralympic athletics competition and IPC World Championships in Athletics, are the highest and most prestigious levels of competition in track and field. Track and field events have become the most prominent part of major athletics championships and many famous athletes within the sport of athletics come from this discipline. Discrete track and field competitions are found at national championships-level and also at annual, invitational track and field meets. Meetings range from elite competitions – such as those in the IAAF Diamond League series – to basic all comers track meets, inter-sports club meetings and schools events, which form the grassroots of track and field.

Official world championship track and field events
Combined events
60 m

100 m

200 m

400 m
800 m

1500 m

3000 m
5000 m

10,000 m
60 m hurdles

100 m hurdles

110 m hurdles

400 m hurdles

3000 m steeplechase
4×100 m relay

4×400 m relay
Long jump

Triple jump

High jump

Pole vault
Shot put

Discus throw

Hammer throw

Javelin throw



Athletics is a collection of sporting

Athletics is a collection of sporting events that involve competitive running, jumping, throwing, and walking.[1] The most common types of athletics competitions are track and field, road running, cross country running, and race walking.

The results of racing events are decided by finishing position (or time, where measured), while the jumps and throws are won by the athlete that achieves the highest or furthest measurement from a series of attempts. The simplicity of the competitions, and the lack of a need for expensive equipment, makes athletics one of the most commonly competed sports in the world. Athletics is mostly an individual sport, with the exception of relay races and competitions which combine athletes’ performances for a team score, such as cross country.

Organized athletics are traced back to the Ancient Olympic Games from 776 BC. The rules and format of the modern events in athletics were defined in Western Europe and North America in the 19th and early 20th century, and were then spread to other parts of the world. Most modern top level meetings are conducted by the International Association of Athletics Federations and its member federations.

The athletics meeting forms the backbone of the Summer Olympics. The foremost international athletics meeting is the IAAF World Championships in Athletics, which incorporates track and field, marathon running and race walking. Other top level competitions in athletics include the IAAF World Cross Country Championships and the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships. Athletes with a physical disability compete at the Summer Paralympics and the IPC Athletics World Championships.

The word athletics is derived from the Ancient Greek ἀθλητής (athlētēs, “combatant in public games”) from ἆθλον (athlon, “prize”) or ἆθλος (athlos, “competition”).[2] Initially, the term was used to describe athletic contests in general – i.e. sporting competition based primarily on human physical feats. In the 19th century, the term athletics acquired a more narrow definition in Europe and came to describe sports involving competitive running, walking, jumping and throwing. This definition continues to be the most prominent one in the United Kingdom and most of the areas of the former British Empire. Furthermore, foreign words in many Germanic and Romance languages which are related to the term athletics also have a similar meaning.

In much of North America, athletics is synonymous with sports in general, maintaining a more historic usage of the term. The word “athletics” is rarely used to refer to the sport of athletics in this region. Track and field is preferred, and is used in the United States and Canada to refer to most athletics events, including racewalking and marathon running (although cross country running is typically considered as a separate sport).

Athletics in History



Throughout recorded sports history, athletics has always been practised. The first event contested in the ancient Olympic Games was the “stadium” race, a sprint of about 192 metres. Winners in this event have been recorded from as far back as 776 BC.


Much like today, the ancient Olympic Games included a wide variety of track and field events. Such events included longer foot races, a race in armour, and a pentathlon event that consisted of the “stadium” race, long jump, discus throw, javelin throw and wrestling.


Similar events were held in ancient Greece at the Isthmian, Nemean and Pythian Games. Throughout Europe, local fairs and festivals often included running, jumping and throwing events. In Ireland and Scotland, these developed into organised sets of Tailteann and Highland Games, respectively. There was also a tradition of “pedestrian” events – often with heavy betting involved – in the 18th and 19 centuries, especially in Great Britain, which normally involved walking or running races.


The modern format of athletics, in which a variety of running, jumping, throwing, walking and combined events are competed at a single “meeting” or “meet”, evolved in the late 19th century, when schools and military colleges began to incorporate sports and exercise as part of education programmes. The earliest recorded meeting dates back to 1840 in Shropshire, England, but specialised championships began to thrive in the 1880s in the USA, UK, and throughout Europe, as well as in other developed nations.


Since 1896, athletics has been on the programme of each edition of the Games of the Olympiad. Its presence on the Games programme has allowed its popularity to increase across the world. This popularity was also strengthened by the creation of the IAAF in 1912. Women’s events appeared for the first time at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, while the men’s programme was standardised as of the 1932 Games in Los Angeles. Although at the beginning women were authorised to participate in only some events, today their programme is almost identical to that of the men.

The 1960s saw a boom in athletics in developing countries, with the success of African runners and sprinters of Caribbean origin. Americans have for a long time reigned over men’s athletics, although European nations have also dominated. For the women, the Soviet Union and the GDR (East Germany) dominated the competitions before their dissolution.

More recently, high-level Asian athletes have risen up the ranks. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, athletes from 62 countries competed in the finals.

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