Javelin Throw Introduction

March 26, 2008

Javelin Throw Introduction

Hercules is reputed to have been one of the earliest javelin throwers. The event was introduced in the Games of 708 BC in two forms: throwing at a target and distance throwing using a sling. The original javelin was made of olive wood, measuring between 2.30m and 2.40m with a weight of 400 grams.
The Scandinavians adopted the event around 1780 and the javelin underwent an astounding growth, becoming a symbol of national independence for the Finns. In those days the javelin measured 2.60m, weighed 800 grams (as it does today), and was of birch wood.

The ancient style of throwing whilst on the run replaced freestyle techniques as did the measuring of single hand efforts as opposed to ‘both hands’ aggregates.

In 1952 the throw line became an arc, as opposed to a straight line, and throws began to be measured from point of impact to the inside edge of the throwing arc.

In 1953 Franklin “Bud” Held (USA) invented a hollow javelin, which increased the surface area of the javelin by 27%, greatly increasing its flight capability and causing the javelin to land horizontally, revolutionising the event. In 1954 Held developed a metal variant, which went further still.

In 1966 the Spaniard Felix Erausquin threw over 100 metres using a rotational technique, which was banned by the IAAF as too dangerous. The 100m barrier was broken again in 1984 by Uwe Hohn. The IAAF then established new rules for the construction of the javelin to ensure shorter flight times and point first landings (safer and easier to measure). In 1991 the rules were changed to disqualify a new type of javelin with a ‘rough’ or corrugated tail design.

The first women’s marks were recorded in Finland as early as 1909. Originally, a javelin weighing 800g was used but this was later standardised at 600g. The first IAAF world record dates back to 1932, the year in which the event made its Olympic debut. A new specification women’s javelin, in which the centre of gravity was moved forward by 30cm to obtain a flight similar to the men’s implement and to avoid flat landings, was introduced in April 1999, previous records being scrapped.

Women Landmarks

First official world record: 46.74 Nan Gindele USA 1932
First over 50m: 50.32 Klavdiya Mayuchaya URS 1947
First over 60m: 61.38 Elvira Ozolina URS 1964
First over 70m: 70.08 Tatyana Biryulina URS 1980
First over 75m: 75.26 Petra Felke GDR 1985
First over 80m: 80.00 Petra Felke 1988

Most competitions over 75m: Petra Felke 13

With new specification javelin:
Inaugural world record: 67.09 Mirela Manjani-Tzelili GRE 1999

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Most Olympic titles: 2 Ruth Fuchs GDR 1972/1976
Most World titles: 2 Trine Hattestad 1993/1997, Mirela Manjani-Tzelili 1999/2003; Osleidys Menendez 2001/2005
Youngest Olympic/World champion: Mihaela Penes ROM 1964 (17) Oldest: Herma Bauma AUT 1948 (33) 
Three all time greats  
Ruth Fuchs (GDR): The only two-time Olympic champion, she took the event to a new level with six world records, culminating in a somewhat frustrating 69.96m in 1980.
Petra Felke (GDR): Her world record distance of exactly 80m in 1988, prior to winning the Olympic title, was never approached and will never now be surpassed as records with the old javelin were scrapped in 1999.
Trine Hattestad (NOR): The bouncy Norwegian, the only woman to have collected two world javelin titles, reached 72.12m with the old model in 1993 and set had a (world record) best of 69.48m with the new spear.

Men Landmarks

First official world record: 62.32 Eric Lemming SWE 1912
First over 70m: 71.01 Erik Lundqvist SWE 1928
First over 80m: 80.41 Bud Held USA 1953
First over 90m: 91.72 Terje Pedersen NOR 1964
First over 100m: 104.80 Uwe Hohn GDR 1984

With current specification javelin:
First over 90m: 91.46 Steve Backley GBR 1992

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Most durable world record: 78.70 Yrjö Nikkanen FIN 1938 (14 years)
Most competitions over 90m (current specification): Ján Zelezny 34 (as at 16 Oct 2002)
Most Olympic titles: 3 Eric Lemming 1906/1908/1912
3 Ján Zelezny 1992/1996/2000
Most World titles: 3 Ján Zelezny 1993/1995/2001
Youngest Olympic/World champion: Erik Lundqvist 1928 (20) Oldest: Ján Zelezny CZE 2000 (34) 
Three all time greats
Matti Järvinen (FIN): Son of the 1906 Olympic Greek-style discus champion, he raised the world record from 71.01 to 77.23m during the thirties and struck Olympic gold in1932.
Janis Lusis (URS): The Latvian won four European titles between 1962 and 1971, gained a complete set of Olympic medals (gold in 1968) and set two world records.
Ján Zelezny (CZE): The current world record holder, also a multiple Olympic and world title winner, was so dominant in 1995 that he was responsible for 21 of the 22 throws that year over 89m.

Is it for me?

The javelin was originally a weapon for hunting and for war. It is lighter than the other classic throwing implements, but demands special technical skills. The javelin thrower must develop smooth acceleration with a fast run-up. The throwing arm must be fast and supple with a super-flexible elbow, while millimetric precision is necessary to release the javelin at the optimal angle. All this must be achieved without ignoring the considerable power required from the back, legs and arms during the whole movement. The javelin throwing action can be compared to that of a whip: the thrower’s body becomes the handle, the javelin the lash.