Events on the track can be divided into several sections. On the flat, there are sprints, middle distance races and long distance races. There are also the four by one hundred metres relay and the four by four hundred metres relay. In addition, races are run over hurdles and barriers from one hundred and ten metres up to three thousand metres. Extreme distance races include the marathon over forty-two kilometers and the men’s fifty kilometer road walk.
Most track events begin in lanes. From a crouching position in starting blocks, athletes respond to the firing of a starting gun. For sprint races up to four hundred metres, competitors stay in their lanes for the whole race. Over longer distances runners may break lanes. Results are decided by a photo finish. There are certain differences between men’s and women’s events. Women’s events are usually shorter and consist of fewer elements. For example, in multi-event competitions men take part in the decathlon which comprises ten events. Women participate in the heptathlon which is composed of seven events. The men’s sprint hurdle is over one hundred and ten metres. The women’s sprint hurdle is over one hundred metres. The obstacles are smaller and closer together. This takes into account the physical differences between male and female athletes.
Some events are held outside the stadium. For example, the men’s fifty kilometer walk and the marathon are mainly run on the streets of the host city. However, the final lap always takes place in the stadium in front of the crowd of spectators.
Most races are for individuals, but some are run in relay. Teams of four people pass a baton from hand to hand. This technique requires a high level of practice, split-second timing and good teamwork. It promotes collective responsibility and team spirit.
Track athletes require a combination of speed, strength, endurance, flexibility and stamina, as well as self — confidence, concentration and mental toughness. The basic athletic skills are common to all sports.
Events in the field can be divided into two sections: jumping and throwing. Jumping events include the high jump, long jump, triple jump and pole vault. Throwing events comprise the javelin, discus, hammer and shotput.
Whereas track races are measured by time, accurate to one hundreth of a second, field events are measured by distance or height in metres. Every athlete is allowed three attempts to achieve a qualifying distance or height. If he is successful, he progresses to the next round.
Except the javelin, throwing events take place inside a throwing circle. There is no run-up. Instead, the athlete rotates his body across the circle and releases his missile using a combination of explosive strength and speed.
Jumping events require an approach run in order to generate speed. The athlete must hit the take-off point on the proper foot, or hit the take-off board without overstepping the line. Vaulters also use a run-up to convert horizontal speed into vertical lift. The pole is made of fiberglass which is extremely flexible. Jumpers and pole vaulters land in a pit filled with sand or foam rubber.
Field events require highly technical specialized skills. The decathlon and heptathlon include both track and field events and are suitable for the all-round athlete. Results are measured by the combined total number of points for all events.
Field athletes require a combination of speed, strength, endurance, balance, good footwork and coordination.
Canoeing is a water sport practiced in small boats called canoes or kayaks. “Kayak” is an Eskimo word for a canoe made out of sealskin. The Canadian canoe is propelled by canoeists in a kneeling position. The kayak is propelled by kayakers in a sitting position. They use a paddle which may be single-bladed or double-bladed.
Competitions take place on flat water courses. There are sprint races over five hundred metres and a thousand metres; and distance races over five thousand metres and ten thousand metres. International events are held for one-man, two-man and four-man kayaks. Events are also held for one-man and two-man Canadian canoes.
North American Indians and Eskimos on Greenland were the first people to build canoes. Flat water canoeing was first included in the Olympics at Berlin in 1936.Slalom canoeing was introduced to the Olympics at Munich in 1972.
Dominant nations in canoeing include Russia, Germany and East European countries. Canoeing requires strength, stamina, balance, coordination and great determination.