Friday, May 26, 2017

Track and Field Research

The history of track and field goes back thousands of years. In human prehistoric times, track and field activities existed. Some of the oldest sports were track and field actions like running, jumping, and throwing. Human expression deals with these specific activities. The first recorded examples of organized track and field events are found at a sports festival called the Ancient Olympic Games. The first Games transpired in 776 B.C. in Olympia, Greece. One event there was contested. It was called the stadium footrace. Back then, a cook from the nearby city of Elis, named Koroibos won the stadium race. It was a foot race of about 600 ft. long. Games expanded into other areas as time went onward. It includes other running competition. Some scholars believe that the ancient Olympics existed as early as the tenth or ninth century B.C. The introduction of the Ancient Olympic pentathlon evolved into modern track and field sports today. It was made up of the five event competition of the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw, stadion footrace, and wrestling. There was ancient boxing in the ancient Olympics too. Equestrian events were held in the hippodromes. The Panhellenic Games in ancient Greece around that time period had these activities too. It spread into Rome, Italy by 200 B.C. After the period of Classical ancient times (which used the sport in Greco-Roman areas), new track and field events developed in parts of Northern Europe during the Middle Ages. There was the stone put and weight throwing competitions. They were popular among Celtic societies in Ireland and Scotland. These were precursors to the modern shot put and hammer throwing events. The pole vault existed from competitions like the Fierljeppen contests in Northern European Lowlands by the 18th century. In the 19th century, discreet modern track and field competitions transpired. These were organized by educational places, military organizations, and sports clubs. They had teams that were rivals against teach. Competitions in the English public schools were conceived as human equivalents to horse racing, fox hunting, and hare coursing. The oldest running club in the world was the Royal Shrewsbury School Hunt. It has records that go back to 1831. Some evidence point to its existence in 1819. The school had races in which runners followed a trail of paper shreds left by two foxes. Today, the RSSH runner care called hounds and a race victory is found.  The first definite record of Shrewsbury's (cross-country) Annual Steeplechase is in 1834, making it the oldest running race of the modern era. The school also lays claim to the oldest track and field meeting still in existence, originating in the Second Spring Meeting first documented in 1840. This featured a series of throwing and jumping events with mock horse races including the Derby Stakes, the Hurdle Race and the Trial Stakes. Runners were entered by people and named as though they were horses. 13 miles (21 km) away and a decade later, the first Wenlock Olympian Games were held at Much Wenlock race course. Events at the 1851 Wenlock Games included a "half-mile foot race" (805 m) and a "leaping in distance" competition. In 1864, Oxford and Cambridge universities (found in the UK) had its first college track and field meet.

In 1865, Dr. William Penny Brookes of Wenlock helped to create the National Olympian Association. It held their first Olympian Games in 1866. It was done at the Crystal Palace in London. It was a national success. It attracted a crowd of over 10,000 people. Later, in that same year, the Amateur Athletic Club was created. It held a championship for “gentlemen amateurs” in an attempt to reclaim the sport for the educated. Later, the NOA continued and the AAC was changed into the Amateur Athletic Association in 1880. That was the first national body in America for the sport of athletics. The AAA Championships (or the de facto British national championships) existed despite being for England only. It held events annually since July 3, 1880 with breaks only during the two world wars and 2006-2008. The AAA had a global governing body in the early years of the sport. It has codified its rules too. In the United States, it started its own annual national competition. It is called the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. It was first held in 1876 by the New York Athletic Club. The establishment of general sports governing bodies for America (the Amateur Athletic Union in 1888) and France (the Union des sociétés françaises de sports athlétiques in 1889) put the sport on a formal footing and meant that international competitions became possible. There was an early model of hurdling at the Detroit Athletic Club in 1888.

The modern Olympic Games came about at the end of the 19th century. It was a new era of track and field. The Olympic athletic program, made up of track and field events plus a marathon race, contained many of the foremost sporting competitions of the 1896 Olympics. The marathon was used in the 1896 Olympics. It was a race of 42.195 km. It commemorated the run of Pheidippides, an ancient “day runner” who carried the news of the Persian landing at Marathon of 490 BC. to Sparta (a distance of 149 miles) in order to enlist help for the battle. According to the fifth-century BC ancient Greek historian Herodotus, Pheidippides delivered the news to the Spartans the next day. The Olympics embraced the usage of metric measurements in international track and field events. That system was utilized for both race distances and for measuring jumps and throws. The Olympic athletics programs quickly expanded over the course of decades. Track and field contests remained among the Olympic Games’ among some of the most prominent events. The Olympics back then was the elite competition for track and field and only amateur sportspeople could compete. Track and field back then continued to be mainly an amateur sport. This rule was strictly enforced. Jim Thorpe (one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century) was stripped of his track and field medals from the 1912 Olympics after it was revealed that he had played baseball professionally. In 1912, the International Amateur Athletic Federation or the IAAF was formed. It was the international governing body for track and field. It promoted amateurism as part of its goal. The National Collegiate Athletic Association had its first Men’s outdoor Track and Field Championship in 1921. It was one of the most prestigious competitions for students. It was followed by the introduction of track and field at the inaugural World Student Games in 1923.  The first continental track and field competition was the 1919 South American Championships. It was followed by the European Athletics Championships in 1934.

Up until the early 1920’s, track and field was mostly made up of males. This changed. There was a growing women’s sports movement in Europe and North America. This movement caused the creation of the Women’s World Games in 1921. It led to the introduction of five track and field events for women in the athletics at the 1928 Summer Olympics. In China, women’s track and field events were held in the 1920’s. They were disrespected unfortunately by the audience there. By 1923, physical education advocate Zhang Ruizhen called for greater equality and participation of women in Chinese track and field. The rise of Kinue Hitomi and her 1928 Olympic medal for Japan signified the growth of women's track and field in East Asia. More women's events were gradually introduced as years progressed (although it was only towards the end of the century that the men's and women's programs approached parity of events). In September 1, 1921, there was the establishment of the NCAA Track and Field Championship. By September 1, 1948, starting blocks and wind gauges are introduced. This allows for faster sprints and more accurate readings of results. Marking an increasingly inclusive approach to the sport, major track and field competitions for disabled athletes were first introduced at the 1960 Summer Paralympics. Track and field regional championships grew. There is also the growth of Olympic style multi-sport events (like the Commonwealth Games and the Pan-American Games). So, competition among international track and field athletes is more widespread now. The sport gained more exposure and commercial appeal via television coverage since the 1960’s. There is also an increasing wealth of nation. Over more than 50 years of amateurism, the amateur status of the sport was replaced by the growing professionalism from the late 1970’s. Therefore, the Amateur Athletic Union was dissolved in America. It was replaced with a non-amateur body solely focused on the sports of athletics. This organization is called the Athletics Congress (later USA Track and Field). The IAAF followed suit by 1982. It abandoned amateurism. It removed all references to it form its name. It re-branded itself as the International Association of Athletics Federations. In 1983, there was the establishment of the IAAF World Championships in Athletics. This was the first ever global completion just for athletics, which with the Olympics became one of track and field’s most prestigious competitions.

Track and field has dramatically increased in popularity by the 1980’s. Many athletics became household names back during the 1980’s. Their names are Carl Lewis (who worked hard in many sports), Sergey Bubka, Sebastian Coe, Zola Budd, Florence Griffith-Joyner (who is the fastest woman track and field sprinter in human history), Evelyn Ashford, and other human beings. Many world records were broken during this period and members from the United States, East Germany, and the Soviet Union competed against each other during that Cold War period. An increase of the commercial capacity of track and field developed. Sports science improved. Coaching methods were modernized. Training facilities became more advanced along with diet regimes plus sports equipment. Also, many athletes were caught using performance-enhancing drugs from the 1980’s and beyond like members of the East German team, Ben Johnson, Marion Jones (to her credit, she apologized, served her time like a woman, and is an activist for real change in society). From the 1990’s to our current generation, track and field has become more professional and international. During the 1990’s, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Michael Johnson, Gail Devers, and others delivered magnificent performances in track and field. The IAAF gained over 200 member nations. The IAAF World Championships in Athletics became a fully professional competition with the introduction of prize money in 1997. By 1998, the IAAF Golden League (which is an annual series of major track and field meetings in Europe) gave a higher level of economic incentive in the form of a US$1 million jackpot. By 2010, the series was replaced by the more lucrative IAAF Diamond League. That league is a fourteen meeting series held in Europe, Asia, North America, and the Middle East. This was the first ever worldwide annual series of track and field meetings. In our generations, some of the greatest track and field athletes are Usain Bolt, Allyson Felix, Carmelita Jeter, Sanya Richards-Ross, Jessica Ennis-Hill, English Gardner, LaShawn Merritt, Justlin Gatlin, Ashton Easton, Wayde van Niekerk, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Mohamed Farah, Veronica Campbell-Brown, and tons of other human beings.

By Timothy

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