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Portrait of decathlon's events (2)

Aug 02, 2017
The decathlon is one of the most grueling competitions in all of sport. It consists of 10 events, negotiated over 2 days. Points are awarded based on the order of finish as well as the distance, height or time achieved in each event. Final standings in a decathlon competition are therefore expressed as total accumulated points. The particular events are designed to test the athlete's speed, strength and endurance - in essence, an entire track meet in one competition.



This event measures basic leg speed and each race/heat will have between 3 and 8 runners. You will push off a set of starting blocks at the start as a reaction to a starters pistol, sprint for 100 meters and lean at the finish line. The race can be timed with a hand held stopwatch to the tenth of a second, or by an automatic timing device which will catch the runners in 1/100ths of a second.

Long jump

The athlete runs toward the landing area, plants his takeoff foot on an 8-inch 'toeboard' (named for obvious reasons) and leaps into a sand filled pit. The distance is measured from the mark made in the pit which is closest to the takeoff board. Speed and accuracy are secondary to leaping ability. Each athlete will have only 3 chances and only the best jump will count in the scoring.

Shot put

The shot put measures basic arm strength. Again, three tries counting only the best effort for scoring. The athlete attempts to push or 'put' (not throw) a 16-pound iron ball so that it lands within a sector of 40 degrees. The throwing circle is seven feet wide and made of concrete. Efforts do not count if the athlete oversteps the throwing circle or if the shot lands outside of the sector lines.

High jump

Yet another explosive event where the athlete must approach the bar and landing area, gather himself and leap (always off one foot) over a crossbar. The landing pit is usually made of foam rubber. The crossbar is raised, usually by 3cm and an athlete is eliminated after three consecutive misses. The highest height cleared is used for scoring.


A century ago, a quarter mile (440 yards) race was deemed an endurance test. Today its metric equivalent is almost an all out sprint. The athlete runs the entire distance in lanes, and like the 100 meter race, may have anywhere from 2 to 7 competitors. The 400 meters tests both speed and stamina and ends the first day's competition.

110 m hurdles

The initial event of the second day combines speed and agility. The athletes must sprint (not jump) over a series of ten barriers, 42 inches high (39 inches at the high school level), which are placed 10 yards apart. The athlete must both sprint and stretch his stride pattern so as to only take 3 steps between hurdles. Hurdles may not be deliberately knocked down.

Discus throw

The discus, which weighs 2 kilograms and is 8'2.5" inches in diameter, has aerodynamic qualities. Again, only three tries are allowed and the athlete, while turning 1 1/2 times, must stay within an 8'2.5" concrete circle. The discus must land within a 40-degree sector. Only the best throw counts in the scoring.

Pole vault

Technically this is the decathlon's most difficult event. While grasping the upper end of a 14 to 15 foot fiberglass vaulting pole, the athlete races toward the pit, plants the pole in a takeoff box and swings himself up and over a crossbar, eventually landing in a foam rubber pit. Sound easy? It takes lots of practice.

Javelin throw

The javelin is a metal spear approximately 8½ feet in length and weighing 800 grams. It must be held by a grip and the throw made behind an arc. At all levels except the high school the javelin must land point first within the sector, which is 29 degrees wide. Each athlete is given three attempts and the best throw is scored.


The final test is one of endurance, 3 3/4 laps around the 400-meter track. Rarely does the decathlete have the luxury of loafing during this event since. He must give his best effort since, at approximately 6 points for every second, places, scores and records (personal or otherwise) will be at stake.


Comments (2)

Joshi wrote on Jan 26, 2010
If you ask most throwers you will find that the Shot Put event doesn't "measure basic arm strength" but is a full body movement that begins in the legs, moves through the body and finishes in the arms. Strength + Speed = Power!
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parkerclay wrote on Sep 20, 2016
Joshi is right. Shot put measures power not basic arm strength.
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