There are three different Olympic hurdling events with four technical variations. Let's take a brief look at each of these before getting into heats and races:
Women's 100-meter hurdles: Competitors must clear 10 hurdles, each of them standing 2.75 feet (.84 meters) high. The first of these is placed 45 feet (13.72 meters) from the starting line. From there, 30 feet (9.14 meters) separates each hurdle from the next. There is a distance of 34.4 feet (10.5 meters) from the final hurdle to the finish line.
Men's 110-meter high hurdles: As in all hurdling events, runners must clear 10 obstacles, but in the men's short race, which is 10 meters longer than the women's, the hurdles stand 3.5 feet (1.067 meters) high. The first of these is placed at the same spot as in the women's 100-meter race, and the nine subsequent hurdles are spaces identically to the women's, but there is 46 feet (14.02 meters) from the last one to the finish line.
Men's and Women's 400-meter hurdles: In this race, runners complete a full lap around the track. The 10 hurdles stand three feet (.914 meters) high, with the first of them placed 147.6 feet (45 meters) from the starting line and the last placed 131.2 feet (40 meters) from the finish. The women's race is the same as the men's, but the hurdles stand six inches lower-- 2.5 feet (.762 meters).
The Start: As in all Olympic sprint events, hurdlers launch from starting blocks. The official starter calls out two commands, "on your marks," then "set," at which time the competitors must have both hands and at least one knee in contact with the track. Both feet must also be in the starting blocks. The "set" command is followed by the starter's gun, at which time the runners take off. Jumping the gun or any violation of the above rules is called a "false start;" runners are only allowed one of these and are disqualified after their first infraction.
The heats: There are two or three preliminary heats before the final, which includes the eight fastest finishers.
The Race: The short events (100, 110 meters) are run on the track's straightaway. Upon finishing, the runner whose chest crosses the finish line first is the winner. Runners must remain in their designated lanes for the entire race, and runners are disqualified if they fail to clear any hurdle.
The Medals: Like all individual track and field events, medals are awarded to the top three finishers in each event. The first-place runner receives a gold medal, second place gets silver and third place takes the bronze.
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