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The sport that best defines the Olympic motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius ("Faster, Higher, Stronger", translating from the Latin), Athletics has been present since the first edition of the Olympic Games of Antiquity, in 776 BC. In that year, Corebus of Elis would become the first Olympic champion after winning a race called the stadion, a sprint of about 192 meters.
Later, Ancient Greece saw the arise of many other running, jumping and throwing events. Another competition that was very popular was the Pentathlon - which combined, as well as the stadion, the long jump, discus, javelin and wrestling events. Centuries later, fairs and festivals throughout Europe had as one of its attractions events to reward the most versatile competitor.
Due to its tradition and popularity, it was not surprising to see Athletics occupying a prominent place in the programme of the first Modern Games in 1896. Twelve medals were disputed in Athens, all in men events. Women began to participate in the 1928 edition in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and currently have a competitive program almost equal to that of men.
A few years before the Olympic Athletics programme was opened to women’s events, in 1912 17 countries created an entity that today has become the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), to standardize rules, criteria and world records.
The sport is divided into track and field, road running, cross country running and combined events. The first of these include different types of races: flat (100, 200, 400, 800, 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 meters), relay (4x100m and 4x400m), hurdling (110m for men, 100m for women and 400m for men and women ) and steeplechase (3,000m). Road running includes the marathon (about 26 miles or 42.195 km) and race walking (20 and 50 km, the last being only for men). The winners are those who finish the course first.
Field competitions include events such as the long jump, triple jump, high jump and pole vault, as well as the shot put and hammer throw, javelin and discus. In these, the athlete with the best performance takes the gold.
Combined events measure the athletes’ versatility, and are held on two consecutive days. For men there is the decathlon, with ten events: 100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400m, 110m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1,500m. Women take part in seven events in the heptathlon: 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin and 800m.
In Athletics, events begin with eliminatory heats. The best competitors or teams advance to the final. The system is different in the combined events: each athlete earns points for their performance, and whoever has the best total after the two days is winner.