History Of Track And Field Essay, Research Paper
The History of Track and Field
Track and Field events, also known as athletics, have progressed a great deal since their birth in Olympus, around the ninth century B.C. More athletes and more nationalities compete in Track and Field than in any other Olympic sport. Athletics is one of the largest attractions at the Modern Olympics, drawing in huge crowds of spectators and creating intense interest at summer Olympics. Track and Field events have come a long way since the Ancient Greek Olympic games. Many events and techniques have been revised, added, or eliminated since the original Greek Olympics. The Olympic motto, ? Citius, Altius, Fortius? is describing the Track and Field events in Latin. The Latin means ? Faster (Swifter), Higher, Stronger,? and indicates the running, jumping, and throwing events respectively and the intense desire to excel.
Running events were a major part of the Ancient Olympic games. The running events were said to have held the greatest ritualistic importance at the Ancient Olympics. The runners raced nude. The competition started the shortest races first and worked up to the longest races. The shortest race was called a ?stade? or one length of the stadium, where the first Olympic games were held. It is believed that the length of the stadium track was about 200 yards long and about 30 yards wide. The next race was a ?double flute?, or twice the length of the stadium. Intermediate races of no more than 1500 meters followed the short races. Records show that only one long distance race took place, a distance of just over two miles. In the data, which is available from that period, it has been shown that the number of footraces was no more than six or seven per Olympic Games. This, however, has changed greatly in the modern Olympics, where a complex program of running events takes place during a competition. The winner of these Ancient Olympic races would be rewarded with an olive branch crown. Another type of footrace, called the hoplite, was introduced rather late in the history of the Ancient Olympics. The race was of about two ?stades? undertaken while wearing battle armor composed of round shields and plumed helmets. Racing over hurdles was not at all part of the Greeks? knowledge during the Ancient Olympics. It was established later in the modern Olympic trials.
Another predecessor of a modern Track and Field event is the long jump. This event differed very greatly from the jumping we see today. The jumpers would have a running start and be holding weights in their hands for momentum purposes. The use of the weights, which were swung about during the run and jump, caused the jumper to have a much larger distance than the athletes of the modern Olympics. In fact, the ancient jumping events are highly controversial because of the ludicrous records found about the distance of the jumps in ancient Greece. One record states that a contestant jumped 55 feet. The modern record for the running long jump is near 30 feet and it seems to many track and field experts that it would be quite impossible for anyone to jump 55 feet, even with the help of an impetus. Some history experts? claim that the Greeks used a system of measurement in which the feet were smaller than the modern foot, which could indicate that the distances were more realistic when translated into modern feet and inches. During the jumping event, flute music would be played which might have helped the jumper to time the difficult movements of running, swinging the weights, and finally jumping. The jumpers would jump into broken up earth, no more than a patch of well-turned soil. Each athlete who competed would rake his own jumping pit.
The throwing events have deep roots in the Ancient Olympic games. The discus throw and the javelin were the most common events at the Ancient Olympics, but later in the history, another event was added which was quite similar to the shot put. Although the discus is one of the few events in which the skill is not useable in war, the Greeks must have felt a great fascination for throwing the relatively inaccurate implement. Both the size and the weight of the Ancient Greek discus varied greatly. Some we have recorded to be nearly 50 pounds and made of stone, whereas the later implements discovered were metal and were of similar weight as modern discs. Discus throwers were depicted throughout Greek art history as magnificent human sculptures. Artists preferred to render discus throwers toward the beginning of the throw, where the weight of the body was centered, as opposed to the end of the throw, where the thrower was terribly unbalanced and aesthetically unpleasing. Techniques that had been used in the discus are not unlike the ones used today. The spinning technique, however, was not used in Ancient Grecian times because the stadium in which the event took place was only 35 meters wide. The effects of throwing a fifty-pound stone discus into a crowd of spectators could be quite disastrous.
The javelin was made of elderwood, much lighter than the dogwood javelin/spear used in war. A leather thong was attached to the javelin around the middle. This thong helped the thrower by, one, increasing the leverage of the throw causing it to go farther and, two, by adding a spin to the shaft so the javelin would fly straighter and imbed into the ground on it?s tip.
Track and Field started at Olympus, centuries ago, and is still a major sport today, despite changes to the program and, to the techniques used during competition. Athletics have come to be known as a very honorable sport, one that requires hard work and dedication from competitors. I am lucky enough to love this sport and succeed in it, and with the many people, who, throughout the years, have dedicated their lives to Track and Field, as will I. Lifetime dedication from athletes is what drives all athletic activities to evolve and become better.