Hurdling technique and rules have changed since the first modern Olympics in 1896 as the event has become almost as fast as a straight sprint. In 1900, the winning 400-meter dash time was 8.2 seconds less than the winning 400-meter hurdles time. In 2004 the difference was just 3.6 seconds. Whatever the rules, hurdles races over the years have produced their share of drama.
1. 1900 - InnovatorIn 1896, Olympic hurdlers simply jumped over the hurdles as they ran by. Prior to the 1900 Games, American Alvin Kraenzlein developed a new technique, still in use today, by running, rather than jumping, over the hurdles, using a straight front leg and a trailing leg tucked underneath his body. He employed his innovation successfully at the Paris Olympics, winning the 110- and 200-meter hurdle races. He won the 110 in 15.4 seconds, shaving 2.2 seconds off the winning time from 1896. Kraenzlein also won the 60-meter dash and the long jump, making him the only man to win four individual events in a single Olympics.
2. 1984 - Golden KingdomGreg Foster was the 1984 pre-Olympic favorite in the 110 hurdles, but fellow American Roger Kingdom dueled with Foster through the qualifying heats and to the end of the final. Foster matched Rod Milburn's Olympic record of 13.24 seconds in the opening heat. Running in separate semifinal heats, both Foster and Kingdom were clocked in 13.24, setting the stage for an exciting final. Despite a mediocre start Foster took an early lead and held it for most of the race. Kingdom pulled even in the final meters and out-stretched Foster in a then-Olympic record time of 13.20, beating Foster by .03 second.
3. 1992 - Young AmericanKevin Young had reason for optimism and cause for concern entering the 400-meter hurdles final in Barcelona. He set his personal best with a time of 47.63 in his semifinal heat. But he came in second in that heat, .01 behind Jamaican Winthrop Graham. Graham was just a fraction slower in the final, finishing second in 47.66, but Young beat him by almost a full second, breaking fellow American Edwin Moses' world record with a 46.78 clocking. Young's time remains the world standard.
4. 1996 - Hemmings sets women's markDeon Hemmings of Jamaica set a personal record of 52.99 to win her semifinal heat in the 400-meter hurdles, then lowered her own mark while setting the Olympic record of 52.82 in the 1996 final. She benefited from a strong start to take the early lead, but was neck-and-neck with Americans Kim Batten and Tonja Buford-Bailey late in the race before pulling away to become Jamaica's first woman gold medalist.
5. 2004 - First for ChinaLiu Xiang of China completed his rapid ascent to the top of the hurdling world with an unexpected gold medal performance in the 110 hurdles in 2004. Running a technically near-perfect race, Liu, then just 21, grazed only one hurdle on his way to tying the world record with a time of 12.91 seconds. He's since lowered that mark to 12.88. Liu was the first Chinese man to win a track and field gold medal.