Olympics: Track & Field

A closer look at the track & field events and key competitors:

Record-setting relay
Ashton Eaton: Decathlon record holder
Top two U.S. decathletes
Brittney Reese: Taking flight
A closer look at Reese
Allyson Felix: Sprinting to gold
Jenn Suhr: High expectations
Oscar Pistorius: The sprinter with no feet
Usain Bolt: The fastest man on Earth

Tyson Gay: Running fast again after battling injuries

After numerous injuries, Tyson Gay entered his second Olympics as the American record holder in the 100-meter dash and the world’s second-fastest man behind Usain Bolt of Jamaica. Gay finished just out of the medals in the 100-meter dash in London, taking fourth place. But he earned a silver medal as part of the U.S. 400-meter relay team.

Reaction time at start

The time between the start-gun firing and Gay’s first movement. His starts can sometimes be slow.

Drive stage (0-15 meters)

In 2 to 8 steps, Gay increases stride, straightens posture.

Acceleration (10-50 meters)

Stride and straightening continue as legs, arms, hips drive toward maximum speed.

Maximum speed (50-80 meters)

Top runners like Gay can reach about 26 mph. His times during the last 50 meters are his best.

Maintenance and finish (80-100 meters)

All runners slow slightly, unable to maintain maximum speed, but Gay decelerates less and passes competitors.

Record-setting relay

The U.S. women’s 400-meter relay team won gold Friday with a time of 40.82 seconds. The mark broke both the Olympic and world records. Jamaica won silver and the Ukraine bronze. Keys to a successful relay handoff:

Ashton Eaton: Decathlon record holder

Ashton Eaton of the U.S. won gold in London with 8,869 points. He had broken the 11-year-old world decathlon record in June, scoring 9,039 points at the U.S. Olympic Trials. The other U.S. decathlete at the Summer Olympics, Trey Hardee, took silver with 8,671 points.

Drive

Launches from board off left leg.

Leap

His lead (right) leg cycles through once while he’s in the air.

Fly

Modified hang.

Landing

Moves into pike position, then lands.

Top two U.S. decathletes

Eaton and Hardee’s personal bests compared with current decathlon world records:

Brittney Reese: Taking flight

Brittney Reese won gold in the women’s long jump in London with a 23-foot, 4-1/2-inch leap. She came to the Olympics having made the farthest jump of any female this year ­— a leap in March that was 4 inches longer than the U.S. indoor record held for 18 years by Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Approach

Reese’s 20-step sprint is fast — she can run 100 meters in 11.2 seconds — giving her powerful horizontal momentum.

Takeoff

She launches from her left leg; her right knee elevates to drive her body upward.

Fly

She uses a modified hang position; arms symmetrically backward, then forward.

Landing

Reese says her landing is “not in perfect form” and is an area to improve.

A closer look at Reese

Allyson Felix: Sprinting to gold

Allyson Felix won gold in London by running the 200-meter sprint in 21.88 seconds. In June, she ran the 200 in 21.69 seconds, clocking the fastest women’s time in 14 years.

Jenn Suhr: High expectations

Jenn Suhr won gold in the women’s pole vault in London, after having taken silver in Beijing in 2008. She holds the U.S. women’s record both indoors and outdoors, where her personal best is 16-1¾. Russia’s Yelena Isinbaeva, the women’s world-record holder at 16-7¼, took bronze in London.

Approach

Suhr rocks back on one foot, then begins to sprint. Foot strikes fall under her hips, which remain high.

Pole plant and takeoff

Her hands push the pole as high as possible above the shoulders. She pushes off the left foot as her free knee drives upward.

Drive and upswing

She shifts her leg and hips up while the shoulders go down during a critical phase in which the pole’s rebound propels her upward.

Going up, while

Suhr pulls herself up into an inverted position, crosses her right ankle over the left and rotates quickly, pushing off the pole before releasing it.

Clearance

She quickly flexes her hips down and tucks her chin to her chest to clear the crossbar.

Oscar Pistorius: The sprinter with no feet

South African Oscar Pistorius’ prostheses have been criticized as giving him a boost. One slight advantage is that the curvature at the bottom gives him longer contact with the track. On the other hand, he loses stability where his body meets the devices.

Usain Bolt: The fastest man on Earth

The world-record holder and two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 100-meter dash (9.58 seconds) benefits from a unique combination of height, strength, acceleration and endurance.

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