Sports Zone

ABOUT THIS EVENT: ‘THE SPRINTS’ – Sheer power, speed and timing

”What it takes to be a great sprinter, you’ve got to be relaxed but still moving fast … You have that confidence and even flow. And that’s something easy to say but hard to do.” Ed Temple, former sprint coach of three-time gold medal winner, Wilma Rudolph.
From ”Rome, 1960,” by David Maraniss
There are six sprint race events at The Olympic Trials and Olympics. The 100, 200, 400-meter individual, 4×100 team relay, 4×400 team relay, and the 4×400 mixed women and men’s relay. Men and women compete separately in all but the newly added 4×400 Mixed Relay.
Sprint races can be divided into three sections: the start, the middle and the finish. Technique is essential. Great sprinters must run relaxed, yet with full force.
Sprints test the power of an athlete’s acceleration, mental concentration and inner drive. They are the most primal of races with runners taking their positions and when the gun goes off, exploding full throttle down the track to see who is fastest.
In the 100 and 200-meter races a good start is essential. A bad start in the 100 meters can be fatal. In the 200 and the 400 a bad start may be overcome but the psychological repercussions of getting a poor start can be devastating. Sprints have a huge mental component that demands the athlete be calm and internally settled while simultaneously focused on direct competition with others.
In the 100 and 200-meter races there isn’t enough time for strategy. In the 400-meters there is time enough to allow for some in-race dynamics. The 400 is considered the longest distance most humans are capable of running at top speed and runners have nothing left when they cross the finish line.
Though the races are short, training and technique are essential. There may be an element of being ”born” fast, but no one becomes a great sprinter without tremendous discipline and devotion.
The greatest sprinter of all-time is world record holder, Usain Bolt, whose charismatic personality and unparalleled speed made his races the highlights of three consecutive Olympic Games. Having the name, Bolt, was fitting to this man of speed!
Sprinters possess powerfully muscled physiques (Think Camaros not sedans) and a profound ability to focus and channel their ability into explosive bursts of energy.
There are many athletes who compete in the 100 and 200, likewise some who compete in the 200 and 400, but it is uncommon for an athlete to effectively compete at the highest level in the 100 and 400.
100 meter sprinters traditionally were not tall because the kinesthetic realities of long legs made it harder for them to accelerate quickly, but Usain Bolt from Jamaica is 6’5.” While his long legs were thought to be a liability at the start of a race, his lengthened stride allowed him to overtake others and then extend his lead in the middle of a race. Watching Usain Bolt run was exhilarating! The only way to beat Bolt was to open up a huge lead early in the race. Through three Olympics and countless other races, no one beat Bolt when the stakes were the highest.
Contesting the Sprints to Make The Team: Prove it, prove it again, then prove it one more time!
In the Olympics and at The U.S. Olympic Trials, there are two qualifying rounds to narrow the field to the top 8 runners. In the final at The Trials, the top three finishers make the Olympic team. The schedule at the Trials is the same as during the Olympics.
Track and Field meets have many events taking place simultaneously. On the field there are athletes, officials, press and various others clustered around their event. Successful Track and Field athletes are accustomed to performing in the coordinated chaos of a track and field meet. Athletes are able to focus on what they are doing and ignore things going on elsewhere. However, in the thirty seconds before the start of a sprint other events come to a stand and the stadium is hushed until the gun fires, a necessary courtesy allowing sprinters to set themselves in their starting blocks, take the ready position, and then react to the starters pistol before exploding from a crouch into a race.
The 100-meter race is held on a straightaway. The 200-meter race has one turn and the 400-meter race involves one complete lap around the 400-meter oval track with three turns to negotiate. Running the sprint turns in the 200- and 400-meter races requires the ability to harness the runners stride maintaining full force and acceleration but also not allowing your momentum to carry you out of your lane. Sprinters must maintain their position in their lane at all times or face possible disqualification.
Men and women compete separately in the 100, 200 and 400-meter races except for a new event in the Tokyo Olympics that will combine men and women in a mixed 4×400m relay. The order in which the two men and women run is up to the team and will be a key factor in what promises to be exciting and intriguing.
In the relays the runners must pass a baton to the next runner in what is called the exchange zone; exchanges outside of the zone result in disqualification. A dropped baton is almost always fatal to a team’s chance of winning the race.

World Record Holders American Record Holders
100 meters
Men: 9.58, Usain Bolt, Jamaica, 2009 9.69, Tyson Gay, 2009
Women: 10.49, Florence Griffith Joyner, USA, 1988 10.49, Florence Griffith Joyner
200 meters
Men: 19.19, Usain Bolt, Jamaica, 2009 19.32, Michael Johnson, 1996
Women: 21.34, Florence Griffith Joyner, USA, 1988 21.34, Florence Griffith Joyner
400 meters
Men: 43.03, Wayde Van Niekirk, South Africa, 2016 43.18, Michael Johnson, 1999
Women: 47.60, Marita Koch, Germany 1985 48.70, Sanya Richards, 2006
4×100 meters
Men: 36.84, Jamaica, 2012 37.10, 2019
Women: 40.82, USA, 2012 40.82, 2012
4×400 meters
Men: 2:54.29, USA, 1993 2:54.29, 1993
Women: 3:15.17, Soviet Union, 1988 3:15.51, 1988
Mixed 4×400 meters
3:09.34, USA, 2019 3:09.34, USA, 2019



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