The 100-meter dash is a track and field event in which competitors race down a straight track measuring 100 meters long. Without any extra obstacles such as running around a bend or clearing hurdles, the event relies solely on quick reactions out of the blocks and a high, consistent speed along the course of the run.
The 100-meter dash is the shortest race in the modern Olympics. However, a race so short did not exist in the original games. Instead, the ancient Greeks competed in a race that covered approximately 190 meters, completed by running down to a stake in the ground, which the competitors would use to turn about as quickly as possible before sprinting back to the original starting line to complete the race.
In the original Greek games, as well as in the early modern Olympics competitions, competitors did not begin racing from the familiar crouched position that is seen today, but instead started from an upright position. The introduction of starting blocks provided for a significant boost to initial speed in the race, as it allowed racers something to push off to drive themselves forward.
The technological side of the event has grown increasingly advanced through the years, as governing bodies seek to create the most accurate times for competitors in a sport where fractions of a second can be the difference between first and last place. The blocks, starting pistol and finish line are linked together technologically, with any racer pushing off less than .1 of a second after the pistol is fired being called for a false start and with optical technology timing the exact moment the sprinters cross the finish line.
The winning times for the event at the Olympic Games show a trend of getting lower as the years go by. Athletes are improving because of better training facilities and more advanced training regimens, calculated with complex data to maximise effectiveness. Additionally, the equipment worn by sprinters continues to be studied to reduce weight and drag to further increase speed.
Winning the gold medal in the 100 is one of the most coveted medals in a track and field competition. Because the 100 is the shortest running event and as such has the highest top speed achieved, the winners of the 100-meter dash at major competitions or the record holders in the event are often referred to as the fastest man and woman on the planet.
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