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An activity in athletics that is an established event in all major athletics championships, its main formats being run over distances of 110 metres (100 metres for women) and 400 metres, during each of which there are ten flights of hurdles that runners must clear. Hurdles also feature in the steeplechase, and the 110-metre event is one of the five challenges in the decathlon. This combination of sprinting and jumping was first documented at the University of Oxford sports of 1864, where sheep hurdles were used. In earlier forms, hurdlers were disqualified if three or more hurdles were knocked over. This rule was abolished for the 1932 Olympic Games, at which the legendary US athlete ‘Babe’ Didrikson numbered the then 80-metre hurdle race among her victories, reaffirming the hurdles as an event that would prove attractive to the ambitious all-rounder, and as a planned combination of pace and technique. In the men's event in 2008 a Cuban won the gold medal, but the USA has dominated, and by the end of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics had won twenty gold, twenty bronze, and eighteen silver medals, while no other nation had won a tenth of that medal haul. In the women's event, first introduced at the Olympics in 1932, an early US domination was challenged by Europeans and, from the 1950s, by competitors from the USSR and other East European state socialist nations; 400-metre gold medallists have included a Moroccan (in Los Angeles 1984 in the inaugural event) and Jamaicans (in Atlanta 1996 and Beijing 2008).

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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