Athletics, also called track-and-field, is a variety of competitions in running, walking, jumping and throwing events.

As many as 27 distinct events make up an athletics meet, which is usually held outdoors. The outdoor running events are held on a 400m oval track, and field events (jumping and throwing) are held either inside the track's perimeter or in adjacent areas. Marathons are run on roads, and the long-distance race walks are contested on measured road courses.

Qualifying – Tokyo 2020

Qualification to secure spots at the Olympic Games is based around qualifying standards that athletes need to meet; i.e. a qualifying time for a race, a qualifying distance for a throwing event. These standards are set by the IAAF, the NZOC and Athletics NZ.

 

Tokyo 2020 Athletics

There are 27 athletics events; 23 for women and 24 for men. The differences in the events are the heptathlon event for women and the decathlon and 50km walk for men. See a full list here: www.olympic.org/athletics

Where: Track-and-field events will be held at the Olympic Stadium, with the race walk events taking place at Imperial Palace Garden.

When: Athletics events start on Friday 31st July with the final event, on the closing day of the Olympics - Sunday 9th August 2020.

Men’s Events
100m  
200m  
400m  
800m  
1,500m  
5,000m  
10,000m  
110m Hurdles
400m Hurdles  
3,000m Steeplechase  
4 x 100m Relay  
4 x 400m Relay  
High Jump  
Pole Vault  
Long Jump  
Triple Jump  
Shot Put  
Discus Throw  
Hammer Throw  
Javelin Throw  
20km Race Walk  
50km Race Walk
Marathon  
Decathlon
Women’s Events
100m  
200m  
400m  
800m  
1,500m  
5,000m  
10,000m  
100m Hurdles
400m Hurdles  
3,000m Steeplechase  
4 x 100m Relay  
4 x 400m Relay  
High Jump  
Pole Vault  
Long Jump  
Triple Jump  
Shot Put  
Discus Throw  
Hammer Throw  
Javelin Throw  
20km Race Walk  
Marathon  
Heptathlon

4 x 400m Mixed Relay

The Stars of Athletics

Seven New Zealanders have won a total of 10 Olympic gold medals in athletics. Valerie Adams is our most recent gold medallist, winning the shot put in Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

The first gold medallist was Jack Lovelock in the 1500m at Berlin in 1936. Yvette Williams became our first female gold medallist winning the long jump in Helsinki in 1952. Norm Read was victorious in the 50km walk at the following 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

Peter Snell (800m) and Murray Halberg (5000m) both won gold medals, within an hour of each other, at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Snell repeated the gold in the 800m 4 years later in Tokyo and added the 1500m as well.

John Walker was New Zealand’s third 1500m Olympic Champion in Montreal in 1976.

Did you know?

  • Athletics, as it is practiced today, was born and grew to maturity in England. The first mention of the sport in England was recorded in 1154, when practice fields were first established in London. The sport was banned by King Edward III in the 1300s, but revived a century later by Henry VIII, reputed to be an accomplished hammer thrower.

Timing was once done in fifths of a second and then in tenths, and is now done in hundredths of a second.

An aiding wind of more than 2m per second nullifies a record time in distances up to 200m. 

The runner whose torso reaches the finish line first is the winner of a race (the torso excludes head, neck, arms, legs, hands and feet).

The marathon distance (42.2km) is a result of the 1908 Olympic Games in London where the marathon distance was changed to 26 miles to cover the ground from Windsor Castle to White City Stadium, with 385 yards added on so the race could finish in front of the royal family’s viewing box.

Athletics has become the most truly international of sports, with nearly every country in the world engaging in some form of competition. Over 200 countries contest the world athletics championships held every 2 years.

Olympic Medals

New Zealand has won 10 Gold, 2 Silver and 9 Bronze medals.

GOLD

1936 Berlin - 1500m Men (Jack Lovelock)
1952 Helsinki - Long Jump Women (Yvette Williams)
1956 Melbourne - 50km Walk Men (Norman Read)
1960 Rome - 5000m Men (Murray Halberg)
1960 Rome - 800m Men (Peter Snell)
1964 Tokyo - 500m Men (Peter Snell)
1964 Tokyo - 800m Men (Peter Snell)
1976 Montreal - 1500m Men (John Walker)
2008 Beijing - Shot Put Women (Valerie Adams)
2012 London - Shot Put Women (Valerie Adams)

SILVER

1976 Montreal - 5000m Men (Dick Quax)
2008 Beijing - 1500m Men (Nick Willis)

BRONZE

1908 London - 3500m Walk Men (Harry Kerr)
1924 Paris - 100m Men (Arthur Porritt)
1952 Helsinki 400m Hurdles Men (John Holland)
1960 Rome - Marathon Men (Barry Magee)
1964 Tokyo - 1500m Men (John Davies)
1964 Tokyo 800m Women (Marise Chamberlain)
1968 Mexico City - Marathon Men (Mike Ryan)
1972 Munich - 1500m Men (Rod Dixon)
1992 Barcelona - Marathon Women (Lorraine Moller)

Athletics Terminology

Breakline - An arc across the track denoting the point where runners may leave their original lane and use any part of the track, which is normally the inside lane.

Countback A process used to determine the winner if two high jumpers or pole vaulters reach equal heights, based upon reviewing which athlete failed least in their jumps at that height or in the whole competition.

Field event - An athletic event that involves jumping or throwing.

Foul A violation where, most commonly, an athlete jumping or throwing for distance steps across the line (or circle) that defines the limit of the athlete's approach to an attempt. It can also refer to where the thrown implement lands outside a marked sector.

Fosbury flop - A style of high-jumping, named after former high-jumper Dick Fosbury, in which the athlete clears the jump facing upwards, with the back to the bar, and lands with the back on the mat.

Timeline

776 BC Athletics was contested in the first ancient Olympic Games, and champions have been recorded from as far back as 776BC.

Late 19th century The modern format of athletics, in which a variety of running, jumping, throwing, walking and combined events are competed at a single ‘meeting’ or ‘meet’ evolved originally in England and then across Europe and the USA.

1896 Athletics was part of the first Olympiad and has remained part of the Olympic programme at every Games.

1928 Women’s events appeared for the first time at the Olympic Games in Amsterdam. Initially, women’s participation was limited to certain events, but today their programme is almost identical to that of the men.

1960s - Saw a boom in athletics in developing countries, with the success of African runners and sprinters of Caribbean origin. More recently, high-level Asian athletes have risen up the ranks.


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Athletics Games History