Olympic Preview: Athletics

The Athletics sports grouping represent the oldest and the most popular of all sports in the Summer Olympics. These sports draw in the most interest in the Olympics as they buck the theory that only the new sports are popular. The latest record of these sports is in the 1896 Olympics, the first of the modern Olympics, but in reality these events go back to the very beginning of sports. Many of these events in this group can trace their true history into the beginning of the Olympic Games from the Ancient Olympic Games. In 776 BCE Greece established the first Olympic Games when they invited city states to Olympia, Greece to test each other in athletic competitions. This was the beginning of the Olympics as it continued to grow and became the sports spectacular they are today. It all started with these Athletics events and still they remain the most popular sports in the Olympics. A large part of this is the fact that all of the sports in the category do not involve any complicated rules. In fact they are the easiest sports to follow in the Olympics as they represent the very basics of all sports. Athletics are about who can run the fastest and farthest or who can throw the longest and nothing much more. They are sports that you may have never seen before but can watch and immediately follow. This is why these sports are a favorite of many Olympic fans and they will once again be popular in London. All eyes will be on the Olympic Stadium throughout the Olympics as some of the most popular athletes compete for gold. London will once again highlight the fastest and strongest which will be on full display in the Athletics sports grouping.

 

Track:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1896

Most Medals: USA, 738 (311 Gold) [Track & Field]

 

It is one half of the most popular group of sports in the Olympics that all can essentially be put into the same rules. The Track Events are all o those events held on the Olympic track and are all running events. Although it is one half of the most popular category of events the track events contain the most popular events in the Olympics. There are many events on the track ranging from the fastest of all sports to the longest of all sports for both men and women. Most events involve both men and women and all are divided by the distance and the obstacles that are involved in the event. Every event is a race where the first to finish moves on to the next round until the final race is held. There are many varieties of the races in the track events starting with the individual short distance races. These include the 100m, 200m, 400m, and the 800m race where individual athletes race around the oval track to the finish. Then there are the longer distances on the track including the 1500m, 5000m, and the 10000m where athletes use their stamina to round the track and finish first. There are also races with obstacles in the way including the 110m hurdles (100m for women), 400m hurdles, and the 3000m steeple chase as athletes add another challenge while still trying to go faster than their opponent. The Track events also involve a team aspect with the 4x100m relay and the 4x400m relay where everything relies on more than the individual. Finally there are the big distances including the 20k race walk, 50k race walk (men only), and the Marathon (about 43k) where athletes are pushed to their limits in terms of stamina and will. All of these races highlight very different aspects of athleticism as the athletes are built very differently for every race. Although all of these events are generally very popular there is one sport that is the crown jewel of the Summer Olympics. This is the Men’s 100m race as the battle for the world’s fastest man captivates fans from around the world. It creates the biggest superstars in the Olympics like Michael Johnson, Donovan Bailey, and Usain Bolt as everyone watches that final race. The 100m along with all of the other track events will be the highlight of the London Olympics and are not to miss this year.

 

Who to Watch:

Usain Bolt (Jamaica)

– The reigning fastest man in the world’s ability to walk through the finish line ahead of everyone is now gone as he must actually give it his everything to retain his Olympic title in the Men’s 100m

 

Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia)

– Continuing the strong history of African countries winning at large distances Bekele is the defending Olympic champion in the 5,000m and 10,000m races and will look to add two more Olympic gold medals to his collection

 

Sanya Richards-Ross (USA)

– She is one of the stronger athletes in the women’s competition as she specializes in medium distances and will look to win more Olympic medals when she races in the women’s 200m, 400m, and the 4x400m relay

 

Tyson Gay (USA)

– He is one of the few people in the world that has beaten Usain Bolt and after a disappointing 2008 performance that saw him drop out of the 200m and lose his chance at the 100m final with a hamstring injury will look to challenge the reigning fastest man

 

Allyson Felix (USA)

– She is a superstar on the other side of the track events as one of the fastest women in the world at the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay and she looks to improve on her three medal performance at Beijing

 

Yohan Blake (Jamaica)

– He is being touted as the only man who could truly test his countryman Usain Bolt in the 100m as he beat the World’s Fastest Man twice in the Jamaican Olympic Trials showing that he may be the one standing on top of the podium this year

 

Moses Masai (Kenya)

– Kenya has been the most dominant long distance country of the past decade and Moses Masai looks to continue the tradition in his first Olympic appearance when he goes to London and looks to win Gold in the 10,000m race

 

Field:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1896

Most Medals: USA, 738 (311 Gold) [Track & Field]

 

This is the other half of the most popular set of sports in the Olympics and can also trace its routes to the Ancient Olympic Games. Instead of simply being about competitions between city states to see who the best athletes were these sports began as training for war. Many of the field sports involve converted weapons that used to be used in ancient battle. These sports began as training exercises and evolved into tests of which army had the better warriors. When they were finally brought into the modern Olympics these sports remained as tests of true athleticism. Instead of running these events span the throwing and the jumping events that are all held in the field between the track. There are many disciplines in this grouping as well as they can be divided between throwing and jumping events along with two events that showcase the best of the track and field events. In the throwing category athletes use different apparatus and looks to launch them as far as they can. In this category there is the hammer throw (a long ball on the end of a chain), the shot put (a large solid medal ball), javelin (a long spear), and discus (medal Frisbee-like disc). In the jumping category athletes either jump into a sand pit for distance or over a bar for height. This category features the long jump (one jump to go as far as possible), triple jump (a hop skip and jump for distance), high jump (over a bar for height), and the pole vault (over a bar using a pole for height). Then there is the combination disciplines including the men’s decathlon and the women’s heptathlon. In the decathlon athletes compete in the 100m, 400m, 110m hurdles, 1500m, long jump, shot put, high jump, discus, pole vault, and the javelin throw over two days. In the heptathlon athletes compete in the 100m, 200m, 800m, high jump, shot put, long jump, and javelin. Each event earns the athletes a set amount of points depending on how far, how fast, or how high each athlete can throw, jump, or run. The athlete with the most point at the end of all of the events is the winner. These sports are much like their close cousins in the track events as they highlight the power and the control of the athletes as many people will be looking in the middle of the stadium at the field events this year in London.

 

Who to Watch:

Steve Hooker (Australia)

– He is the defending champion in the Men’s Pole Vault and will be looking to improve on his Olympic Record performance at Beijing when he jumped 5.96 metres and will be back to defend his Gold medal in London

 

Yelena Isinbaeva (Russia)

– She is one of the best pole vaulters in history and has won two gold medals in the event as she enters London looking to become the only pole vault athlete to win three Gold Medals in a row in her fourth Olympic games

 

Andreas Thorkildsen (Norway)

– Thorkildsen was at the top of his game in 2008 when he won almost every major competition in the javelin including Gold in the Beijing Olympics as he was able to dominate the competition and not even use his last throw to win the competition

 

Barbora Spotakova (Czech Republic)

– She has made a real impact in the Czech Republic winning the Czech Athlete of the Year award five years in a row and a large part of that was her performance at the 2008 Olympics where she won gold and set a world record in the javelin throw

 

Canadian Content:

Dylan Armstrong (Kamloops, BC)

– he has been one of the faces of the Olympics for Canada leading up to 2012 as he will look to win his first Olympic medal after missing a medal in 2008 by one centimeter in the shot put but a new attitude and a 2011 Diamond League championship will give him what he needs

 

Jessica Zelinka (London, ON)

– She has grown a tremendous amount in her career after failing to qualify for Athens in 2004 and then finishing 5th in 2008 establishing a new Canadian record for points in the heptathlon as she looks to continue her growth and get on the podium

 

Triathlon:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 2000

Most Medals: Australia, 4 (1 Gold)

 

The triathlon is an event that fits perfectly in the athletics grouping but is not a part of the track and field portion of the Olympics. It also does not share the long Olympic history of the other sports in this category. In fact it is one of the younger sports in the Olympics only joining the program in 2000. That does not mean that it is a young sport as the triathlon has been a part of the sports world for decades and has been a way of challenging oneself for the weekend warriors. The triathlon is essentially a simple race with the first to cross the finish line wins except there is much more to it than that. Instead of a race of the fastest or the one with the most stamina the triathlon tests much more. It is a test of an athlete’s all around ability as an athlete forcing them to not just be fast and have stamina but also master a set of skills that some focus on for single events. The race begins with 55 athletes standing on a floating dock who dive into the lake all at once and begin their 1,500m swim. There are some major challenges in the swim as 55 athletes all fight for their space in the open water with no lanes to keep anyone in a straight line. Athletes have to complete the swim while getting kicked in the face or hit with an arm or hand before they move on to the next challenge. When athletes complete the swim they immediately transfer to their bicycles where they then complete a 40k bike ride. The ride is similar to the road race except much shorter as athletes deal with a new motion for their muscles through a challenging course while trying to get ahead of their competition. When the bike is finished the athletes again enter a transfer station where they leave their bicycle and begin the 10,000m run. This could be the toughest part of the competition as the athletes go through another distance race after doing two before and must fight through the pain to finish the race. The Triathlon is a tough fight for the athletes and at London it has been promised to be one of the most entertaining events in the program.

 

Who to Watch:

Jan Frodeno (Germany)

– he goes into London as the defending Olympic champion and did it in dramatic fashion in Beijing after he won in a sprint finish beating out the two biggest favorites and surprising everyone to become the Gold Medalist

 

Javier Gomez (Spain)

– He went into the 2008 Olympic race as the favorite and defending World Champion but he suffered a stitch midway through the race and could only finish 4th but will come into London as a favorite again and will look to win in his second Olympic race

 

Emma Moffatt (Australia)

– Australia is one of the hotspots of triathlon with everything right there for the taking and Moffatt is one athlete who expresses this as she has been one of the best tri-athletes in the world winning two World Championships and a bronze in 2008

 

Nicola Spirig (Switzerland)

– She is one of the strongest athletes in the triathlon as she will be coming off of a 2nd place finish in the World Cup and will be looking to improve on her sixth place performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

 

Canadian Content:

Simon Whitfield (Victoria, BC)

– A lot of the hopes of Canada fall on his shoulders as he will carry the flag for Canada at the opening ceremonies and will look to repeat his performance at the 200 Olympics and win Gold in his last Olympic race

 

Paula Findlay (Edmonton, AB)

– She is one of the strongest athletes in the sport but a serious hip injury has kept her to competing in only one race this year as she will look to run through the pain in London before she has surgery to repair her torn labrum

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