An Illustrated History of Hurdles

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The early days of hurdles

Alvin Kraenzlein. IOC Olympic Museum/Allsport/Getty Images

The 110-meter hurdles event was a part of the first modern Olympics in 1896. But those competitors jumped over the hurdles, rather then striding over them, as hurdlers do today. American Alvin Kraenzlein developed what became the modern technique and employed it at the 1900 Olympics, using a straight front leg with a trailing leg tucked under his body. Kraenzlein won the 110- and 200-meter hurdles events - as well as the 60-meter dash and the long jump - at the 1900 Games. Read more about sprint hurdles technique.

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World competition

The 1928 Olympic 110-meter hurdles. IOC Olympic Museum/Allsport/Getty Images

Americans won the first five Olympic 110-meter hurdles events, through 1912. U.S. hurdlers also won the initial five Olympic championships in the 400-meter hurdles, an event first run in 1900. At the 1928 Olympics, however, South African Sydney Atkinson - pictured above - prevailed in the 110-meter hurdles.

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Women begin hurdling

Babe Didriksen displays the form that gained her the 1932 Olympic 80-meter hurdles gold medal. Three Lions/Stringer/Getty Images

The women's 80-meter hurdles became an Olympic event in 1932. American Babe Didrikson won the initial event, one of three medals (2 gold and 1 silver) she earned during the Los Angeles Games.

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U.S. reaps gold

Rod Milburn hurdles past his competitors at the 1972 Olympics. Tony Duffy/Staff/Getty Images

American men have won more Olympic hurdles gold medals than any other nation. Rod Miburn's victory in the 1972 Olympic 110-meter hurdles was the ninth consecutive American gold medal in that event.

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The greatest

Edwin Moses out-races his competitors during his gold medal performance at the 1984 Olympics. David Cannon/Staff/Getty Images

Few athletes have ever dominated a sport the way Edwin Moses owned the 400-meter hurdles. He won 122 consecutive races from 1977 through 1987. He also earned Olympic gold medals in 1976 and 1984, with the 1980 U.S. boycott costing him a chance to win three consecutive golds.

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Keeping it 100

Yordanka Donkova earned an Olympic gold medal in 1988, the same year she broke the 100-meter hurdles world record. Tony Duffy/Allsport/Getty Images

The standard distance for the outdoor women's Olympic sprint hurdles was increased from 80 to 100 meters in 1972. As of 2015, Bulgaria's Yordanka Donkova owns the 100-meter hurdles world record of 12.21 seconds, set in 1988.

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Young American

Kevin Young - shown here at the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials - set a 400-meter hurdles world record at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. David Madison/Getty Images

Kevin Young earned a gold medal and broke the world record in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1992 Olympics. He tweaked his stride pattern prior to the Barcelona Games, using 12 instead of 13 strides leading up to the fourth and fifth hurdles to post his record time of 46.78 seconds.

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Russian through the hurdles

Yuliya Pechonkina in action at the 2004 Olympics, one year after she set the 400-meter hurdles world record. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Yuliya Pechonkina broke the women's 400-meter hurdles world record in 2003, when she won the Russian Championships in 52.34 seconds.

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Where hurdling is now

Joanna Hayes competes in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials. She went on to earn the gold medal in Beijing. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Joanna Hayes was the first American woman in 20 years to win an Olympic hurdles gold medal when she triumphed in the 100-meter event in 2008.

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Merritt-ing a victory

Aries Merritt (second from left) races to victory in the 2012 Olympic 110-meter hurdles. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

American Aries Merritt enjoyed one of the great hurdling seasons of all time in 2012. He won the Olympic 110-meter gold medal in London, and shortly thereafter he set a world record of 12.80 seconds.