Athletics | Sunday Observer


4 April, 2021

Many of us know what the meaning of 'Athletics' is, but to give it a simple definition, would be to refer to it as a sport which includes competing in a variety of events like running, jumping, throwing and walking. It has become an international sport, with nearly all the countries engaging in a competition.

Ancient athletics

Track and field athletics are the oldest forms of organised sports. Athletics has a long history. The oldest athletic events would include running, walking, jumping and throwing. Their roots are prehistoric.

There are no proper records of ancient athletics but there is historical evidence that suggests that Egyptian and Asian civilisations had encouraged people to participate in these events even before the Christian era.

The Greece Olympics which started in 776 B.C had a number of athletic events such as discus throw, long jump and running events.

The ancients Olympics continued for eleven straight centuries finally coming to an end in 393 A.D. The Olympics were held every four years and it was held in honour of the Greek god, Zeus. The ancient Olympics were only limited to male participants and athletes as well as to the spectators. The females had their own Olympics in the Haera festival.

Athletics was well established in many countries by the 19th century but it truly became an international sport after the first modern Olympic Games held in 1896 in Athens. The major athletic competitions in the world before the Second World War included the Olympics and the British Empire games.

Modern athletics

Athletics as well as athletes have developed and matured and have come a long way to the modern era. At present there are four common types of events in athletics namely, track and field, race walking, road running and cross-country running.

Track events include running or walking around a race track. These events can be divided into three groups as short distance, middle distance and long distance. Other than these there are hurdle events as well as relay races included.

Field events include throwing events or jumping events and are not performed on a running track. Jumping events include long jump, high jump, triple jump and throwing events include discus throw, shot-put and javelin throw. There are combined events such as pentathlon, heptathlon and decathlon as well.

Race walking is a form of competition that takes place on open air roads. It’s the only athletic event that monitors the athletes’ techniques. The race-walkers should always have a foot in contact with the ground and the advancing leg should be straightened and not bent.

Road running is an event of running on a measured course over an established road. It’s considered as a long distance event.

Cross country running is an event in which teams and athletes run a race on open-air courses over natural terrain such as dirt and grass. The course includes surfaces like grass, hills, gravel roads and woodlands.

World records

Usain Bolt has set a world record of 9.58 seconds for the men’s 100m event in 2009 IAAF Championship. He is also the record holder for the men’s 200m event with a record of 19.19 seconds in the same championship. Usain bolt is also known as the fastest athlete of all time in the world. He has won seven gold medals in the Olympic Games. The best long jump record is held by Mike Powell with 8.95 meters during the world championship in Tokyo.

Javier Sotomayor holds the current world record for high jump with a 2.45m jump.

As an athlete myself I can say that athletics is a fun sport to engage in and it is enjoyable to practise in the green grass and sandy beaches.


Kavinya Malaweera Arachchi

Grade 11

Methodist College, Colombo