By Samantha Deverdicks
You can’t deny that the headline act in the track and field line up will always be the men’s 100m final. The mouth-watering prospect of the fastest men in the world locking horns attracts us like a moth to the flame. The recent rivalry between the charismatic Bolt and Blake has caused worldwide fascination and raised the profile of the event to a point where even those without an interest in athletics can’t help but to take notice.
Yes, the 100m sprint is guilty of stealing the spotlight, but it is often the case that on the whole, the action on the field is overshadowed by their neighbours running the track. While the photo finishes, tactical breakaways and baton exchanging can create some of the most exciting moments in athletics, the field events are not without drama. Take golden (or strawberry blonde) boy Greg Rutherford for example; after suffering injury heartbreak in the 2011 World Championships the long jump specialist overcame his demons in the Olympic stadium and leapt to victory in one of the most breath-taking nights for British athletics. Robbie Grabarz is another home-grown talent who successfully ignited the Olympic stage, fighting off stiff competition to claim a bronze medal in the high jump. As with fractions of a second in sprinting, sometimes a mere centimetre in the throws and jumps can be the difference between a podium finish and applauding from the stands. As for the pole vault, it is easy to underestimate the extreme strength and technical perfection that is required in order to perform each vault, not to mention bravery. It may be second nature to them but the courage displayed by each vaulter is admirable.
There aren’t many second chances in athletics; one false start and you’re out. The pressure on the start line weighs heavy on the shoulders of any athlete. Regardless of whether it’s an Olympic final or a local senior league meet, the nerves creep out in all of us. With running there’s a release; at the sound of the gun the race begins and the adrenaline is allowed to escape. However on the field the tension and pressure build as each athlete must wait their turn – the mental strain can be crippling. Imagine it’s your last jump or throw in an Olympic final, the other attempts haven’t gone to plan and the nation is expecting you to deliver. A lot of people would break under the pressure, and would be forgiven for doing so, but there are many exceptional athletes out there who are able to hold their nerve and in doing so create some of the most exciting events.
The pole vault and high jump are two events that can make an entire stadium collectively hold their breath, as a winner can only be decided when the athletes reach breaking point. The recent Diamond League meeting in Lausanne demonstrated the high jump at its very best, and for a moment events on the track were neglected. Brit Robbie Grabarz, Russian Ivan Ukhov and young Qatar athlete Moutaz Essa Barshim fought tooth and nail in an exhilarating competition. On achieving a new personal best and equalling the British outdoor record, Grabarz could still only claim third place as Barshim was also in scintillating form, equalling the world’s best jump this year with an astonishing clearance of 2.39m. Ukhov couldn’t better the 2.37m recorded by Grabarz but was awarded second place on count back ruling. It was unknown who would eventually claim victory, as each of the trio matched and constantly tried to better one and other. One of the best things about such an event is that it is quite simply impossible to be resentful towards the winner; such is the nature of the competition. It is one of the best displays of healthy sportsmanship and an attitude that should be encouraged from grassroots level.
There is something special about field events, something pure about the way in which success is awarded. Unlike many other sports there isn’t an element of luck, simply if you jump higher or throw further than anybody else then you deserve to be crowned champion, no questions asked. They are a true spectacle of undoubted athleticism, and deserve to share the limelight rather than fight for it.