Steeplechase: Rules, regulations and all you need to know

Avinash Sable will represent India in 3000m steeplechase at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics

By Samrat Chakraborty

Steeplechase is a very interesting track event where participants overcome various obstacles -- fixed barriers and water jumps -- during the course of a 3000m race to make it to the finish line.

It will be upon Avinash Sable -- India's lone representative in the 3000m steeplechase event at Tokyo 2020 -- to put his best foot forward in his maiden appearance at the Games.

The 26-year-old had made a cut for Tokyo 2020 with a time of 8.21.37 at the Athletics World Championship final in Doha in October 2019. That assured his place with the Tokyo 2020 cut off timing set at 8.22.00.

Sable has lowered the national record consistently and he rewrote it for the fifth time at the Federation Cup in Patiala earlier this year with a timing of 8:20.20.

And as Tokyo 2020 approaches, let us know a bit more about the event:

Where did steeplechase originate?

Steeplechase was modelled after horse steeplechase and has its origin in Britain. The race originally began with participants running from one town's church steeple to another. The obstacles -- walls and low streams -- were far more natural then before the modern-day 3000m steeplechase came to the fore.

The modern day race began with the Oxford University race in the 19th and the 'natural' obstacles were replaced with fixed barriers and pits. The event, however, made its Olympic debut at Antwerp 1920 with the men's event while the women's event was only introduced at Beijing 2008.

How does the race start?

The steeplechase race begins with a standing start. The start command is 'on your marks' but the racers don't touch the ground before leaving their marker. The participants are also allowed one false start but more than that results in direct disqualification from the event.

What are the obstacles in steeplechase?

The 3000m steeplechase event consists of 28 fixed barriers and seven water jumps.

Fixed barriers: The fixed barriers are different in length according to the men's and women's event. The barrier for the men's event is 914millimetres(mm) high while for the women's category it is 762 mm.

Water jumps: The water jump, including the hurdle, is 3.66m in length. The pits are designed in such a way that they have an upward slope and the water is deeper near the barrier. The slope begins around 30cm forward of the barrier and the water is 70cm deep.

What are the rules of steeplechase?

During the course of the event, each runner has to clear 28 fixed barriers and seven water jumps to make it to the finish line. It includes a bit over seven laps with a fraction of lap without any barriers.

Each of these seven laps have a standard length of 400m. Interestingly, unlike the hurdle races, steeplechase barriers don't move from their position if hit as they are fixed.


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