Track and field are some of the most exciting events in the Olympic Games, but after the weeks of hype, the events themselves are so short -- less than 10 seconds in the men's 100-meter dash -- that it seems like they're over before a casual fan has time to get a vicarious adrenaline rush. While you were still trying to figure out who is in lane six — blink! — that bunch of crouching tall ladies are now wandering around waving flags and/or crying. What happened? What's a heptathlon? Relax. Let The Atlantic Wire do your pre-race homework for you. You've been introduced to the women's Olympic gymnastics team, and their mortal enemies, through GIFs. Now it's time to meet the men and women of the track and field team.
Here she is flopping to win at trials, via the tumblr Bashful Hound.
Despite having the slowest reaction time out of the blocks, Felix tied for third in the 100-meter sprint with Jeneba Tarmoh, who had a much faster start. Felix and Tarmoh were going to have an unusual run off, but Tarmoh, who had originally been declared the winner of their tie, refused to take part. So, Felix got the team spot. Here's a GIF of their incredible tie:
Here is a completely gratuitous shot of her working out, via Healthy Bee, to show her amazing athleticism.
In a partnership with Red Bull, researchers are using computer modeling to figure out how to make Jones even faster. The sponsored scientists found that while Jones' hurdling technique was solid, her first eight steps before the hurdling begins had room for improvement. "What coach Shaver told us was that if she gets to the first hurdle in middle of the group, she wins the race 100 percent of the time," one such scientist reported to the Associated Press. "If she doesn't get to the first hurdle with the group, then she's got a 50-50 shot." Here's that hurdling technique in action, as captured by another sponsor.
Here's that first part of the race, which reportedly could be tweaked, via USWNTGIFS:
Here's Jones doing just your average workout, via Healthy Bee:
She won trials, too, via Bashful Hound:
Here's Jeter winning the 100-meter dash at worlds in 2011:
Jenn Suhr won pole vault at trials in June. She won a silver in Beijing in 2008. Though Suhr trains in an airplane hanger and has almost hit the ceiling a few times.
In college, Suhr was a basketball player, but was convinced to try pole vaulting by the man who eventually became her husband, Rick Suhr. Rick told the Associated Press that when she first started, her technique looked like a "crawfish crawling over the bar." But now she vaults gracefully. She practices her form underwater in a deep indoor pool.
Eaton is very powerful, which makes him good at the 400-meters, the 100-meter dash, and the long jump.
His hurdling looks very smooth (you can see him in lane 7):
But his weakness is the throwing events, like the javelin and shot put:
You can see that race here:
Gay had hip surgery last year, and showed he was making a comeback at a meet this month in Paris. Watch how despite being slow off the blocks, Gay comes from way behind to win (he's the guy in blue in lane 5):
Gay came in second at trials. He says he thinks he'll have to have a time of 9.7 seconds or less to medal.
Sprinting seems like an aerobic sport -- the kind that requires huge lung capacity to pump oxygen to the lungs, just like cycling or swimming. But it's not, as Time's Bill Saporito explains, it's actually an anaerobic sport, like weight lifting. That's because "the distance is too short to get oxygen pumped down from the heart. You just drain whatever’s in the leg muscles." You can see Gatlin's strength in his crazy flexing traps and chest:
He won that race in Beijing in 2008 by an amazing margin:
And look at his smile!
He also took home a gold medal with the 1,600-meter relay in 2008. Merritt is coming back "after receiving a 21-month ban for taking the penis enlargement product, ExtenZe," Fox News reports. Let this be a lesson to us all: Even the Olympic gods among us have their own insecurities.
Note: Die-hard track and field fans are not as prolific at creating loving GIFs dedicated to the style, form, and technique of these athletes as gymnastics fans. The tumblr FuckYeahPoleVault, for example, has a single GIF, and it's of a Russian. Dear track fans: Please make more GIFs! Ones highlighting what makes these athletes special.