Thursday, July 26, 2012

2012 Olympics Previews: Athletics


Someone must have found the phrase "Track and Field" to be offensive because now it's all grouped together under the heading of "Athletics." In all, there are 26 different events that make up "Athletics." These events are split between Track Events(100, 200, 400, 800, 1500, 5000, 10000 meter races for both men and women; 100m hurdles for women, 110m hurdles for men, 400m hurdles for both men and women; 3000m steeplechase for both; and a 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay for both), Road Events (Marathon and 20 km walk for both men and women and 50 km walk for men), Field Events (Long Jump, Triple Jump, High Jump, Pole Vault, Shot Put, Discus Throw, Javelin Throw, Hammer Throw), and Combined events which features a Heptathlon for women and Decathlon for men.


To qualify for an Athletics event, there are minimum time or distance standards set by the International Olympic Committee. An individual nation may enter up to 3 participants per sex (6 total) in each event provided they each meet the qualification standard.

What Is That?

Steeplechase - This is an "obstacle" race where runners must jump over 7 "normal" hurdles and 1 water hurdle (a barrier with a puddle after it) in each lap of a 4-lap race around the track. On the whole, it is a 3000-meter race. Runners are permitted to step on the hurdles to get over them.

Discus - Athletes see who can throw a 4.5 pound frisbee the farthest.

Javelin - Derived from spear-throwing, is a test of who can throw the javelin (think long spear) the farthest.

Shot put - Have you ever taken a bocce ball and tried to hurl it? That's basically what shot put is. There is some technique that goes into it with spinning around in a confined space and using one's arm to "push" rather than "throw" the sphere (which weighs 16 lbs for men and 8.8 lbs for women). Shot putting likely began around the time cannonballs were invented and people started showing off about how far they could throw them.

Hammer Throw - This one comes from the Scottish Highland Games. In modern times, there is a weighted ball on the end of a stick. Competitors swing the "hammer" around in a circular motion to gain power and speed before throwing.

High Jump - The opposite of the Limbo. Athletes attempt to jump over a bar that gets higher and higher as the competition moves on.

Long Jump - If you can't figure this one out, stop reading now.

Triple Jump - Contrary to what you might think, there is only one distance measured here. However, this plays on the age-old adage "A hop, A skip, and A Jump." Athletes run down the track then take a hop, a skip, and them make a jump into the sand pit where the actual distance is measured. The hop and skip don't really count and are just for show (or generating more speed/leverage)

Pole Vault - Like the High Jump, except competitors use a pole that they run with and must insert to a stand while on the run that then bends and helps to lift ("vault") them upwards and over the bar.

Heptathlon - Seven events over two days for women (100m hurdles, High Jump, Shot Put, 200m, Long Jump, Javelin Throw, 800m).

Decathlon - The men's combined event features 10 events that are contested (100m, Long Jump, Shot put, High Jump, 400m, 110 hurdles, Discus, Pole Vault, Javelin, 1500m).

What To Watch For

The second week of the Olympics are set to get off with a bang (literally) as the 100-meter dash will run qualifiers and heats on Saturday then the semi-finals and finals on Sunday. Any time the fastest man on earth steps on the track, it's must-see-TV. The question is though - who is the fastest man on earth? Up until a month ago, that man was without a doubt Jamaican Usain Bolt who holds the World Record and the Olympic Record. However, at the Jamaican Olympic Trials, Bolt's training partner Yohan Blake beat him in both the 100m and 200m. Bolt is scheduled to run in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. The 100m final should be a good one as the top 22 times in the world this year were recorded by 5 men - Bolt, Blake, fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell, Americans Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay, and Keston Beldman from Trinidad and Tobago. In the Men's 200m, Jamaicans hold 10 of the top 20 times this year, with Blake and Bolt the frontrunners.

While Jamaicans dominate the short distances, Kenyans still own the long distance running. David Rudisha set a World Record in the 800m in 2010 and is still running strong, posting the 4 fastest times in 2012. Kenyans have also posted the fastest times in the 1000m and 1500m. As the distances stretch out, the Kenyan runners see challenges to their dominance from other African nations, specifically Ethiopia.

The top qualifier in the Women's 100m is Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. No confirmation of her relationship with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The top 5 times this year were all run by different women, separated by only 0.2 seconds, which could mean a wide open final in London. Americans are set up will for the 200m and might battle it out with a surprisingly strong Russian contingent (who have posted 5 of the Top 10 times this year). 

Americans to Watch

In the men's 100m, Justin Gatlin has the fastest time this year by someone not named Bolt or Blake at 9.80. Shockingly, that's only 0.05 seconds slower than Blake's qualifying time which was the fastest in the world this year. Gatlin has gone under 10 seconds 4 other times this year in the 100m. Tyson Gay has been around this rodeo before but could still make some noise for Bronze. In the 200m, 3 different Americans have run top 20 times, but only Wallace Spearmon will br running at the Games.

In the men's 400m, LaShawn Merritt who won Gold in Beijing, has the Top 2 times in the world this year and 3 of the top 10. Tony McQuay also has 3 of the Top 10 times in the 400.

In the women's 100m, Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix have both posted Top 5 times this season and should be in the medal chase. Felix has the best time in the world this year in the 200m with Jeter and Sanya Richards-Ross also posting top 5 times.

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