What are Olympic Hurdles?

Sally Pearson of Australia won a 100-meter hurdles silver medal at the 2008 Olympics, then earned the gold medal at the 2012 London Games. Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Success in the Olympic hurdles events requires sprinter’s speed plus solid technique as the competitors glide over their obstacles on their way to the finish line.

Illustrated Sprint Hurdles Technique

THE COMPETITION

The modern Olympics feature three different hurdles events, all of which take place on the track:

  • 100-meter hurdles
  • 110-meter hurdles
  • 400-meter hurdles

100-meter hurdles
This women’s race is run on a straightaway.

Runners must remain in their lanes.

110-meter hurdles
The men’s high hurdles event is also run on a straightaway. Runners must remain in their lanes from start to finish.

400-meter hurdles
Both men and women run a 400-meter low hurdles race. Competitors must remain in their lanes as they run one complete lap of the track, but the start is staggered to even the distance.

EQUIPMENT AND VENUE

All Olympic hurdles events are run on a track. Runners begin with their feet in solid starting blocks.

Each Olympic hurdles event features 10 hurdles. In the 110, the hurdles measure 1.067 meters (3 feet, 6 inches) high. The first hurdle is set 13.72 meters (45 feet) from the starting line. There are 9.14 meters (30 feet) between hurdles and 14.02 meters (46 feet) from the final hurdle to the finish line.

In the 100, the hurdles measure 0.84 meters (2 feet, 9 inches) high. The first hurdle is set 13 meters (42 feet, 8 inches) from the starting line.

There are 8.5 meters (27 feet, 10 inches) between hurdles and 10.5 meters (34 feet, 5 inches) from the final hurdle to the finish line.

In the 400 men’s race the hurdles are 0.914 meters (3 feet) high. The first hurdle is set 45 meters (147 feet, 7 inches) from the starting line. There are 35 meters (114 feet, 10 inches) between hurdles and 40 meters (131 feet, 3 inches) from the final hurdle to the finish line.

The hurdle setup in the 400 women’s race is the same as the men’s 400, except the hurdles are 0.762 meters (2 feet, 6 inches) high.

GOLD, SILVER, AND BRONZE

Athletes in the hurdles events must achieve an Olympic qualifying time and must qualify for their nation’s Olympic team. A maximum of three competitors per country may run in any hurdles event. All Olympic hurdles events include eight runners in the final. Depending on the number of entries, hurdles events include two or three preliminary rounds before the final.

All hurdles races end when a runner’s torso (not the head, arm or leg) crosses the finish line.

Read more about Olympic Hurdles Rules and Scoring.

Back to Olympic Hurdles main page