history of athletics

We explain the history of athletics, its origin, and its development until today. In addition, the track tests that compose it

What is the history of athletics?

The history of athletics is extended since it is one of the oldest sports disciplines in the world, which involves different executions, such as races, jumps, throws, and other combined events. Many of them were practiced separately, for sporting or practical purposes, since the very beginning of humanity.

The very name of this sport reveals much of its origin: the Greek word athletes means “one who competes for a prize” and comes from authors, “fight” or “combat,” along with Athlon, the name given to the loot. Or reward (usual amphorae) assigned to the most outstanding combatants in some archaic game contest, which used to be buried with them.

The first reference to athletics as a sport comes from 776 BC. C., from a list of competitors from ancient Greece. At that time, it was limited to a 197.27-meter-long foot race, known as a station, supposedly equivalent to 200 times the foot of the mythical hero Heracles (Hercules).

Later, the double stadion (or dualistic), the middle-distance race (or equestrian), and the long-distance race (or folic) emerged. In addition, in the Olympic Games of Ancient Greece at the end of the 8th century BC. C. the pentathlon emerged, the discipline that combined running, jumping, throwing, and wrestling.

The Roman culture also practiced athletics in a form similar to the Greek and another more identical to its Etruscan heritage. Thus, they incorporated new practices into this sport. For example, they added the pole vault, hammer throw, and cross-country.

Many continued to be practiced during the Middle Ages, according to the particular forms of each European Christian kingdom, notably England and Denmark. Some new disciplines had a beneficial military component, such as archery, while others were frowned upon, especially during Puritanism, because they often ended in fights and drunkenness.

Another of the oldest races in medieval Europe was the one held in Rome in the mid-15th century, reproducing Greek athletes and making athletes compete completely naked, just as in ancient times.

In 1825 the first modern athletics meeting was held near the English capital. Towards the end of the century, the English vision of sport as a social element spread throughout Europe.

Thus began the union of athletics societies in France, the United States, Belgium, and Germany. In the latter, the first official championship was held in 1891. This organized emergence of athletics in Europe was key to reviving the Olympic Games.

Although from the beginning of the 20th century, the professional practice of this sport was almost exclusive to Western Europe and the United States, as of 1930, Afro-American athletes, as well as other Europeans from the colonies, stood out in competitions.

After World War II, the communist nations of the Eastern Bloc actively participated in competitions to assert their presence and power. Towards 1970 the Caribbean nations were incorporated, as well as the African countries in 1980, as the world reality, along with that of this sport, became increasingly globalized.

athletics track events
history of javelin athletics
The javelin throw is part of Olympic athletics.

Athletics comprises track events and exercises carried out under controlled conditions, in which athletes can be tested according to different physical and mental criteria. The most common track tests are:

Foot races. Ispeedeedd resistance races on flat and limited terrain can b many types: speed races, long-distance races, cross-country rathe passage of fences, or relay racracehletic walking. British invention consists of a muscular movement during which at least one foot must always be in contact with the ground so that it does not involve running or jogging but walking between 20 and 50 kilometers.

Jumps. As the name implies, athletes in this set of tests are expected to jump, either aided by a long, flexible pole (pole vault), at the end of a short run (long jump), or over a barrier (high jump).

Releases. Again, the name says it all: it’s about throwing objects (usually a javelin, ball, or hammer) using full-body strength; whether or not you take a dash, whoever gets their thrown object the furthest wins.

Decathlon. In this category, athletes undergo ten tests in a row, carried out over two days in a continuous and organized manner. Its women’s version, consisting of seven events instead of ten, is known as the heptathlon.

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