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What are Olympic Hurdles?

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Anier Garcia of Cuba competes in 110 Meter Hurdles in Sydney Olympics, 2000
Stu Forster/Staff/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
What are Olympic hurdles? Winners of these events require sprinter’s speed plus precise technique as the competitors glide over their obstacles on their way to the finish line.

THE COMPETITION

In the modern Olympics, there are three different hurdles events that take place on the track:

  • 100-meter hurdles
  • 110-meter hurdles
  • 400-meter hurdles

100-meter hurdles
This women’s race is run on a straightaway. Runners must remain in their lanes.

110-meter hurdles
The men’s high hurdles event is run on a straightaway. Runners must remain in their lanes.

400-meter hurdles
Both men and women run a 400-meter low hurdles race. Competitors must remain in their lanes as they run one complete lap of the track, but the start is staggered to even the distance.

EQUIPMENT AND VENUE

All Olympic hurdles events are run on a track. Runners begin with their feet in solid starting blocks.

There are 10 hurdles in all three Olympic hurdles events. In the 110, the hurdles measure 1.067 meters high. The first hurdle is set 13.72 meters from the starting line. There are 9.14 meters between hurdles and 14.02 meters from the final hurdle to the finish line.

In the 100, the hurdles measure .84 meters high. The first hurdle is set 13 meters from the starting line. There are 8.5 meters between hurdles and 10.5 meters from the final hurdle to the finish line.

In the 400 men’s race the hurdles are .914 meters high. The first hurdle is set 45 meters from the starting line. There are 35 meters between hurdles and 40 meters from the final hurdle to the finish line.

The hurdle setup in the 400 women’s race is the same as the men’s 400 except the hurdles are .762 meters high.

GOLD, SILVER, AND BRONZE

Athletes in the hurdles events must achieve an Olympic qualifying time and must qualify for their nation’s Olympic team. A maximum of three competitors per country may compete in any hurdles event.

All Olympic hurdles events include eight runners in the final. Depending on the number of entries, hurdles events include two or three preliminary rounds before the final.

All hurdles races end when a runner’s torso (not the head, arm or leg) crosses the finish line.

Read more about Olympic Hurdles Rules and Scoring.

Back to Olympic Hurdles main page

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