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Olympic Field Sports - An Introduction

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Olympic Field Sports
Overview | Discus | Shot Put | Hammer Throw | Javelin | Long Jump | Triple Jump | Pole Vault | High Jump

The modern Olympic Games, founded in 1896, have eight field sports1, that, funnily enough, generally take place in the field within the track in the main Olympic stadium. This project describes the rules, method, history and more about each of these sports.

The field sports can be split into two parts - the throwing sports: discus, shot put, hammer throw, and javelin - and the jumping sports: long jump, triple jump, pole vault and high jump.


  • The Discus - to many, the discus often appears to be the most graceful of the throwing events, and perhaps it is - the method shown describes just such a scenario. One discus thrower accidentally trained with a discus five times the correct weight and, instead of his competitors' graceful throws, just lugged the thing to get his gold medal. This sport proves that it's not just the young ones who get the medals - learning the 'spin and a half' takes so much practice that almost every Olympic champion is at least 35 years old.

  • The Shot Put - This sport is not just throwing a dangerous weight around. This Entry demonstrates the skill needed to blend powerful arms with coordination and balance. Giving both the Glide and the Spin methods, this Entry tells of how one man has held the world record on acrimonious grounds for over two decades. Just be glad we're no longer throwing cannon balls around.

  • The Hammer Throw - A sport that very few have ever tried their hands at. Although this is the latest Olympic event to be extended to women, this taking place as late as 2000, historically the sport has not been confined to men. Both King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I tried a sport which involves chucking a weight and hoping it doesn't kill anyone. This Entry tells how a weightlifter's arms have to be combined with a ballerina's talent (read inside for details) - a sport we hear less of than we should.

  • The Javelin - The sport with the strongest historical links, this Entry provides an explanation to a sport that has been taking place for more than 2,000 years. The run, the throw and ensuring it actually lands where you want it to are all explained.

  • The Long Jump - historically used for crossing those inconvenient rivers and enemy moats, the modern long jump is a sprint followed by a single jump for the maximum distance. This Entry demonstrates the different styles used to glide through the air and the hidden skills that are so crucial to success. A history includes the fact that just four men have held the record for 90 years between them, including the famous athlete Jesse Owens.

  • The Triple Jump - here the Entry tries to break down an extremely complicated sport into understandable parts. The triple jump takes the already difficult long jump and then adds to it what used to be a simple childhood game. The hop, skip and jump requires athletes who can concentrate on multiple things at once and who are capable of jumping off each leg. With less of a historical background, this writer believes it is the most complex of any field sport, and that it is worth reading just to respect those who do attempt it.

  • The Pole Vault - Possibly the field event which the fewest readers will have taken part in. Unlike the other field events, there are fewer choices here - everyone competes in the pole vault the same way. An explanation of the run with the pole, the flip over the top of it and how it can be safe to drop 20 feet are all included. Scientists say we are running close to the maximum possibly achievable in the pole vault, so get in on the ground floor while you can.

  • The High Jump - one of the more iconic field events. Almost every reader will have seen the two types of jump - the scissors and the Fosbury flop. This Entry will show that these aren't the only ways to jump higher than your height, with at least one more way to jump, and possibly several. If you're interested in what these might be - take a look. For everyone who likes that moment's bliss of falling.

Not Just On Their Own

The field sports in the Olympics are not just contested on their own - they also make up crucial parts of the pentathlon, the heptathlon and the decathlon. If learning one of these occasionally crazy sports was hard enough on its own, imagine learning several of them.

Heptathlon - the heptathlon replaced the pentathlon for mixed-sports competing for women in the 1984 Olympics. The field events dominate over the track sports with the following field sports being competed: high jump, long jump, shot put and javelin. The men, obviously disliking the cold, do an indoors heptathlon, with the pole vault replacing the javelin.

Decathlon - six field sports are contested within the decathlon: pole vault, high jump, long jump, shot put, discus and javelin. The decathlon came in very soon after the advent of the modern Olympics, first taking place in 1904.

Pentathlon - the eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted that the modern pentathlon does not include any field events. Alas you are correct, but the Ancient Greeks had it right in the ancient Olympic Games contesting the long jump, javelin and discus. This variation of the pentathlon is competed all round the world even today, although not in the Olympics.

So Now What?

Well firstly, take a look at as many of the above entries as you want to! Many of them have facts, both on the sport itself and its history, that will surprise you greatly. After that, try finding a competition, either on TV or better yet in real life - see whether what each athlete is doing makes any more sense now. After that? Well that's up to you - maybe, just maybe, you feel inspired to try out one or more of these amazing sports. The numbers doing so round the world grow each year - good luck, and enjoy!

1To see why several other sports that you think would be played on a field are not featured in the Olympics, have a look here.

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