The 400 metres, (or erroneously the quarter mile), is a sprint event. It has been featured in the athletics programme at the Summer Olympics since 1896 (1964 for women). In many countries, athletes previously competed in the 440 yard dash (402.336 m) - the 'quarter-mile' - instead of the 400m, though this distance is now obsolete. An athlete who competes in the 400m may still be referred to as 'quarter-miler'.
On a standard outdoor running track, it is exactly one lap around the track. Runners start in staggered positions and race in separate lanes for the entire course. A runner may be disqualified for running outside their lane on the inside of the bends.
Sprinters start from blocks which contain an electronic pressure pad to detect false starts based on reaction times to the starting gun. A reaction time of less than 0.10 second is deemed to be a false start, and results in disqualification.
Maximum sprint speed capability is a significant contributing factor to success in the event, but athletes also require substantial speed-endurance and the ability to cope well with high amounts of lactic acid to sustain a fast speed over a whole lap. It is commonly acknowledged to be a beast of a distance to run!
An Olympic double of 200 metres and 400m was first achieved by Valerie Brisco-Hooks in 1984, and later by Michael Johnson from the United States and Marie-José Pérec of France both in 1996. Alberto Juantorena of Cuba at the 1976 Summer Olympics became the first and so far the only athlete to win both the 400m and 800m Olympic titles.
In the men’s event, 44 seconds is considered to be elite world class performance, and 49 seconds in the women’s. No Briton has bettered these marks.
Eric Liddell’s gold medal in 1924 was at the heart of the Oscar winning film, ‘Chariots of Fire’.
2016 Olympic Champion: Wayde Van Niekerk (RSA)
Olympic Record: 43.03s – Wayde Van Niekerk (RSA – 2016)
British Gold Medallists: Wyndham Halswelle (1908); Eric Liddell (1924)
World Record: 43.18s – Michael Johnson (USA – 1999)
British Record: 44.36s – Iwan Thomas (1997)
2016 Olympic Champion: Shaunae Miller (BAH)
Olympic Record: 48.25 – Marie-Jose Perec (FRA – 1996)
British Gold Medallists: Christine Ohuruogu (2008)
World Record: 47.60s – Marita Koch (GDR – 1985)
British Record: 49.41s – Christine Ohuruogu (2013)
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