HISTORY OF ATHLETICS AT THE OLYMPICS:

Many of the events on the modern track and field program would be instantly recognisable to the ancient Greeks.

The running and jumping events have largely stood the test of time.

Peculiarities such as the standing high jump, the two-handed javelin and the stone throw were still on the program early in the modern Olympic era before fading into history.

The big winners in modern times in world athletics have been women.

Not until 1928 were there any female events on the Olympic program.

And even then, such was the consternation at several competitors dropping to the ground exhausted after the finish of the 800m that they were promptly banned from running any further than 200m at the Games until 1960.

New Zealand claimed its first Olympic medal on the track with Harry Kerr competing for Australasia at the 1908 London Games winning bronze in the 3500m walk.

Jack Lovelock's 1500m win in Berlin in 1936 was the first of nine athletics gold medals for Kiwi athletes and athletics remains the leading source of our Olympic medals.

Peter Snell remains New Zealand's most successful track and field Olympian, claiming three golds, including the 800m and 1500m double in Tokyo in 1964.

In London, shot put star Valerie Adams will be seeking to defend her title from Beijing.

NZ Newswire