Olympic Sport Lowdown: Athletics

Mo Farah helped Team GB reach their medal goals in Daegu. Image courtesy of UK Athletics.

Athletics is arguably the star of the summer Olympic Games; it is the showpiece. For one, athletics take place in the Olympic Stadium, which to many people is the ultimate symbol of the Games. Athletics is also the biggest sport in the Games, with over 2,000 athletes taking part in the Olympics and 1,700 Paralympic competitors. Historically, athletics are significant for including some of the Games’ oldest and original competitions. And of course, the display of pure athleticism is remarkable. This is the sport that crowns the world’s fastest man and woman after all.

There are 47 medal events in Athletics, with equal numbers of events for men and women, and they are roughly divided up into four categories: track events such as the 100 metre and the relays, field events including High Jump and Javelin, combined events and road events like the Marathon and the 20km and 50km Race Walks (who knew?). The Paralympics stage 170 Athletics medal events across the same categories.

Athletics is one of Team GB’s strengths and its stars, including East London’s triple jumping Phillips Idowu, heptathlete Jess Ennis and distance runner Mo Farah, are fast becoming household names in the UK.

The results at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, which finished on Sunday 4 September, showed that Team GB is on course for a successful 2012, but still has work to do. The team met its target of seven medals, including at least one gold. Dai Greene was the first Brit to stand atop the podium, after a remarkable performance in the 400m hurdles. Hannah England was a surprise silver medalist in the women’s 1500m. Londoner Farah was disappointed with silver in the 10,000 km but upped his game to take the gold medal in the 5,000 km. Idowu and Ennis both lost their world championship positions but still placed second in their respective events. Despite these strong performances by Team GB in Daegu, coach Charles van Commenee has expressed dismay that so few other athletes on the team finished close to the medal positions.

Sounds like its back to work then. But if Daegu was anything to go by, the 2012 Athletics competition is going to be unmissable.

Get the Londonist lowdown on all Olympic and Paralympic sports in the run up to 2012.

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