Athletics, also known as track and field, is probably the most basic and universal of physical competitions. The name of the sport originated from the Greek word athlon, meaning “contest,” and it describes a collection of sports that include running, throwing, and jumping events.
In ancient China, as elsewhere around the world, athletics were often related to military training. During the Spring and Autumn period 春秋 (770–476 BCE), soldiers would be trained in running, leaping and wrestling, riding, jousting, and the use of weapons. It’s no surprise that the first athletic event in the ancient Olympics was a foot race known as the stade. The earliest records of this event can be dated back to 776 BCE. Events such as longer foot races, a race in armor, and the pentathlon (consisting of the stade, long jump, discus throw, javelin throw, and wrestling) were also included in the ancient Olympic Games, as well as in the Isthmian, Nemean, Roman, and Pythian Games, collectively known as the Panhellenic Games.