5 things you didn’t know about athletics

How about those opening ceremonies, huh?  Wowzers.  Here are some fascinating facts to carry you through day 1 of the games.  First up: athletics.

    1. The first is that what we might call “track and field” or something like that is actually called athletics in the Olympics.  Now you know what all those commentators are talking about!  (Bonus fun fact: I HATE the word commentators.  Anyone with me on this one?)
    2. Pole vaulters don’t just have to push themselves over a high hurdle – their leap skyward starts by running down a track and getting their pole  precisely into a little square box at the bottom of the hurdle, first.  Can you imagine?  I walk into walls in the home I grew up in – I can’t imagine being coordinated enough to pull that off.  Kudos, pole vaulters.
    3. Straight from How to Watch the Olympics, my source for all this, comes this awesome history of race walking (yes, softball got cut but race walking is still in the games.  Don’t ask me to explain.).  “Race walking grew out of a craze for competitive ‘pedestrianism’ in the UK and USA in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Huge wagers were staked on how long it would take selected individuals to walk between specified points.  Celebrity walkers ranged from mutton-chop whiskered men and elderly women.  In 1749, an 18-month-old girl walked the length of Pall Mall in 23 minutes, to the delight of her backers.”
    4. In 2004, Brazilian runner Vanderlei de Lima was attacked by an Irish priest in the middle of his race, and he still managed to finish third.  That’s some dedication – on both parts!
    5. You know how the marathon is such an awkward distance (26.2 miles)?  If you’re like me, you probably assumed that when the Greek runner ran to Athens to announce the news of the Greek victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon (only to drop dead of exhaustion at the end) that this was just how far he ran and we were stuck with it.  FALSE.  That legend only accounted for 26 miles – the last .2 were added in 1908 at the London Games because the British royal family wanted the race to begin beneath the windows of the nursery at Windsor Castle and end opposite the royal box in the stadium.  It’s stayed that way ever since.  Those sneaky Brits…

I’ll be back tomorrow with more – may the odds be ever in your favor!

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