While professional team sports like soccer, basketball, football and baseball get most of the headlines and TV coverage, some of the world's best athletes don't play any of these sports.
Often, the best athletes in the world compete in track and field. The events at a track and field meet are true measures of speed, strength and other athletic abilities. Fans enjoy track and field because it is great competition. In many races, athletes are competing directly against each other. There are no touchdowns or goals to score - the fastest person wins.
Usain Bolt: One of the best runners in the world is Usain Bolt, who is from Jamaica. You might remember Bolt from his performances at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. There, he set world records in the 100 and 200 meter races. Because of that accomplishment, he is known as the Fastest Man on Earth. Bolt's specialties are the short races, or sprints. In the 100 and 200, runners usually go all out, running as fast as they can for the entire race. For that reason, it is one of the sport's most popular events.
Distance Running: Not all track events are simply about speed. In races such as the mile (1,600 meters) or the 2,000 meters, runners have to demonstrate great endurance. They have to run fast, but for a longer period of time. These are difficult races to run. If runners start out too fast, they might take the lead, but get tired quickly and be unable to finish strong. It's important in distance races to figure out when to run fast and when to conserve your energy.
Field Events: There are many different field events which measure strength and jumping ability. One of the most common events is the long jump. Michael Powell of the United States was a very good track athlete in the 1990s. In 1991, he set the long jump record at 29 feet, 4.5 inches! To put that in context, imagine three regulation basketball hoops lying on the ground. Powell jumped nearly that far!
Throws: Some of the strongest athletes in the world compete in the shot put or discus. Fans love these events because they involve athletes throwing heavy objects great distances. There is only one way to win a shot put or discus competition - throw farther than your competitors!
If you ever have a chance to check out a high school, college or national track and field meet, you should take advantage of the opportunity. Although these athletes aren't as famous as basketball or football stars, they work just as hard. They are fast and they are strong - and they are fun to watch!
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