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What is Olympic Steeplechase?


Athletes compete in the Men's 3000m Steeplechase Heats on Day 7 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 3, 2012 in London, England
Alexander Hassenstein / Staff/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
What is Olympic Steeplechase? It’s the Duckbilled Platypus of the track and field world, combining several different skills into one event, including distance running, hurdling and long jumping.


The 3000-meter event includes 28 hurdle jumps and seven water jumps. The jumps begin after the runners pass the finish line for the first time. There are five jumps in each of the final seven laps, with the water jump as the fourth. The jumps are evenly distributed throughout the track. Each runner must go over or through the water pit and must jump each hurdle.

A men’s event since 1920, the Beijing Games will feature the first Olympic women’s steeplechase race.


Steeplechase events take place on a track.

The hurdles are .914 meters high for men’s events and .762 meters high for the women’s steeplechase. The hurdles are solid and cannot be knocked over, but the tops are five inches long so hurdlers can step on them, if necessary. The hurdle at the water jump is 3.66 meters wide while the remaining hurdles are at least 3.94 meters wide, so more than one runner can clear a hurdle at the same time.

The water pits are 3.66 meters long with a maximum water depth of 70 centimeters. The pit slopes upward so the water depth recedes at the farther end of the pit.


Athletes in the steeplechase 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 the steeplechase.

Fifteen runners compete in the Olympic steeplechase final. Depending on the number of entries, a qualifying round is held prior to the final.

The steeplechase begins with a standing start. All steeplechase races end when a runner’s torso (not the head, arm or leg) crosses the finish line.

Read more about Olympic Steeplechase Rules and Scoring.

Back to Olympic Steeplechase main page

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