Javelin throw

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The javelin throw is an athletics (track and field) throwing event where the object to be thrown is the javelin, a spear-like object made of metal, fibreglass and, in some cases, carbon fiber. Because of its potential danger, it is not always included in track and field meets.

Competition and throws

Rules are similar to other throwing events: Competitors take three throws or six when they are placed to the eighth position, their best legal throw is recorded and the winner is the individual with the longest legal throw measured to the nearest centimeter. The javelin's point must touch the ground first for the throw to be legal. The most noticeable difference with the other events is that rather than a throwing circle as used in discus, shot put and hammer throw, the competitors have a run-up area coated with the same surface used for running tracks, and a painted line on the surface from which they must release the javelin. The run-up culminates in a 40 degree fan emanating from a point 8m behind the line. Throws are measured from the point of landing to the inside of the painted line with the measuring tape co-linear with the point of landing and the focal point of the fan. Javelin throwers also normally use spikes unlike other throwers, with eleven small spikes on each shoe. Many athletic tracks have javelin run-ups at each end to take advantage of any potential wind benefit.

Javelin throwers gain considerable forward velocity in their run-up to their throws, and as well as strength demonstrate athleticism more similar to running and jumping events. Thus, the athletes share more similar physical characteristics to those athletes rather than the bulky frames of the strength throwers. At release, a javelin can reach speeds approaching 70 mph (113 km/h).

Javelin redesigns

In 1986, the men's javelin (800 g) was redesigned because of the prodigious distances being thrown culminating in a world record throw of over 104m by the then East German thrower, Uwe Höhn. The javelin throw was in danger of being banished to outside the arena on safety grounds so the javelin was redesigned so that the centre of gravity was moved further away from the centre of pressure (the point at which the aerodynamic forces of lift and drag act) so that the javelin had a downward pitching moment. This brings the nose down earlier, reducing the flight distance by around 10% and also causing the javelin to stick in. In 1999, the women's javelin (600g) was similarly redesigned.

Modifications that manufacturers made to recover some of the lost distance, by increasing tail drag (using holes, rough paint or dimples), were outlawed at the end of 1991 and marks made using implements with such modifications removed from the record books.

History and the javelin at the Olympics

The javelin throw has been part of the Summer Olympics since 1908. Although the javelin is currently used only for sport in most areas, it has a long history of use for hunting and warfare. There are, for instance, numerous references to the javelin in ancient Hellenic civilization, who practised a form of javelin throwing at the ancient Olympics. The objective there, however, was to throw at a target rather than for distance.

World records

The world record for men, at 98.48 meters, is held by Jan Železný from the Czech Republic, set at Jena, Germany, on May 25, 1996. The world record for women, at 71.70 meters, is held by Osleidys Menéndez from Cuba, set at Helsinki, Finland on August 14, 2005

Javelin throwing in Greece

Athletes (Men)

Athletes (Women)


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