Athletics is a group of
sporting events that involves competitive
walking. The most common types of athletics competitions are
track and field,
cross country running, and
The results of
racing events are decided by finishing position (or time, where measured), while the jumps and throws are won by the
athlete that achieves the highest or furthest measurement from a series of attempts. The simplicity of the competitions, and the lack of a need for expensive equipment, makes athletics one of the most common types of sports in the world. Athletics is mostly an individual sport, with the exception of
relay races and competitions which combine athletes' performances for a team score, such as cross country.
Organized athletics are traced back to the
Ancient Olympic Games from 776 BC. The rules and format of the modern
events in athletics were defined in Western Europe and North America in the 19th and early 20th century, and were then spread to other parts of the world. Most modern top level meetings are held under the auspices of
World Athletics, the global governing body for the sport of athletics, or its member continental and national federations.
The athletics meeting forms the backbone of the
Summer Olympics. The foremost international athletics meeting is the
World Athletics Championships, which incorporates track and field, marathon running and race walking. Other top level competitions in athletics include the
World Athletics Cross Country Championships and the
World Half Marathon Championships. Athletes with a
physical disability compete at the
Summer Paralympics and the
World Para Athletics Championships.
The word athletics is derived from the
Ancient Greek ἀθλητής (athlētēs, "combatant in public games") from ἆθλον (athlon, "prize") or ἆθλος (athlos, "competition"). Initially, the term described athletic contests in general – i.e. sporting competition based primarily on human physical feats. In the 19th century, the term athletics acquired a more narrow definition in Europe and came to describe sports involving competitive running, walking, jumping and throwing. This definition continues to be prominent in the United Kingdom and the former
British Empire. Related words in
Romance languages also have a similar meaning.
In much of North America, athletics is synonymous with sports in general, maintaining the historical usage of the term. The word "athletics" is rarely used to refer to the sport of athletics in this region. Track and field is preferred, and is used in the United States and Canada to refer to athletics events, including racewalking and marathon running (although cross country running is typically considered a separate sport). (
Sara Simeoni (born April 19, 1953) is an
high jumper, who won a gold medal at the
1980 Summer Olympics and twice set a world record in the women's high jump.
Sara Simeoni was born in
Rivoli Veronese, in the
province of Verona. She soon took up athletics, specialising in the high jump. Her first international result was at the 1971 European Championships in Helsinki, where she ended 9th with a 178 cm jump. Her first international success was at the
Montreal, where she won a silver medal, with a personal best of 1.91 m, and was beaten only by
Rosemarie Ackermann's 1.93 m leap.
In August 1978, she set the new world record with 2.01 m in
Brescia (this jump stood as a national record until
Antonietta Di Martino jumped 2.02 in June 2007). Later in the same month she equalled it at
Prague while winning the European title. In 1980, Simeoni set a new Olympic record of 1.97 m, when winning gold in
Simeoni struggled to regain her form in the following years, with a series of
tendon injuries. At
1984 Olympics, Simeoni carried the Italian flag at the opening ceremony in
Los Angeles. Here, she cemented her reputation as one of the greatest female high jumpers ever, in a thrilling duel with German
Ulrike Meyfarth. Simeoni managed to reach the 2 meters measure for the first time since 1978. The ageing Meyfarth, however, replied with a notable 2.02 m jump, and Simeoni won a silver medal.