EXPLAINER: Athletics at Tokyo Olympics
Things to know about the athletics competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics:
THE ABSOLUTE BASICS
- Athletics was at the heart of the original Ancient Greek Olympics and has been so ever since the modern Games began in 1896.
- The fundamentals of sprinting, distance running, walking, hurdling, throwing various objects and jumping high or long remain, though tweaks and changes have been frequent over the years.
HOW MANY MEDALS?
There are 24 men’s events, 23 women’s (women do not have a 50km walk) and, introduced this year, a mixed 4x400m relay.
WHAT HAPPENED IN RIO?
The highlight of the Games was Usain Bolt completing his double triple of 100m and 200m titles. The most extraordinary performance came in the women’s 10,000m when Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana ran 29 minutes, 17.45 seconds to take almost 15 seconds off the highly dubious 23-year world record of China’s Wang Junxia. The first 13 finishers all set personal bests and eight national records were set.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT IN TOKYO?
A new 100m champion for the first time since 2004, though it could be the same man who took gold in Athens 17 years ago — the 39-year-old Justin Gatlin.
The 4x400m mixed relay, comprising teams of two men and two women. A relatively new event in the sport, in its early outings teams chose a variety of strategies but most seem to have now settled on a man-woman-woman-man running order.
WHEN IS IT HAPPENING?
July 30 to August 8.
WHERE IS IT HAPPENING?
The main program will take place in the Olympic Stadium. The marathons and walk events will be held in Sapporo, where they were moved because of concerns over the Tokyo heat.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
The formal structure of the Olympic athletics program, on the men’s side at least, is pretty much unchanged for the last 70 years. It took until 1928 until women were allowed to compete in a handful of events.
That proved a notable setback in the fight for equality, however, when several finishers collapsed after the 800m, shocking officials who then kept them from running anything further than half a lap of the track until 1960.
Almost 49% of the athletes in Tokyo will be women.
WELL FANCY THAT
In the early days of the Olympics there were a number of events that popped up and soon disappeared. Among them were the two-handed versions of the shot-put, javelin and discus, where the athlete added together the distance achieved with left hand and right hand.
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