The javelin has been a part of human history for millions of years. It originated as a hunting tool and allowed our ancestors to kill their prey from a great distance. It eventually started being used in wars and eventually turned into a sport. It has been a part of the modern Olympics since they were first held in 1896. The javelin throw is a great showcase of strength, speed, balance and accuracy. It has had some legendary performers and the sport has grown in popularity in recent years. During the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (held in 2021 because of COVID), India’s Neeraj Chopra won a Gold medal in the javelin throw. It was the country’s first ever gold medal in athletics and it sent the nation into a javelin frenzy. If a market as big as India gets behind the javelin throw, it’s bound to exponentially increase in popularity. In this post, we will find out about the basics of the javelin throw. We will walk through the history and end with the rules of the modern Olympics event. Let’s get started.
Javelin Throw 101
What is the goal of the javelin throw?
The objective of the javelin throw is to reach the greatest possible horizontal distance, and to achieve this objective, the factors that integrate speed, precision, strength and distance and the good execution of the technique must be taken into account.
How did the javelin throw originate?
Its history goes back millions of years, with our cave-dwelling ancestors. They say that the javelin was a weapon of war and a survival device, as it was used for hunting and fishing.
The war javelin was the size of the bearer, thin as a human finger and sharp at the point; while the one used in competitions was round at the tip and the center of gravity was a strap of about 40 centimeters that was wrapped around it, the index and thumb were inserted and it was thrown in a circular way to triple the distance.
Since the ancient times, the javelin has been used in many parts of the world, as a defense weapon and as a hunting tool. The Nordics used it like other peoples and especially the Finns, who have it as the symbol of their nation’s freedom.
The Greeks say that the mythological Hercules was the first great champion of the javelin throw. Since this sport was one of the most appreciated and extraordinary skills that the Greeks and Romans had. It can be thought that the javelin throw in its current form is an application of the technique used by soldiers of any origin in the handling of this weapon.
The first athletes practiced a throw in which precision and strength (distance) had to be combined. The distance was favorable. There was also a time when the distances achieved with the left and right arms were added together.
At first, it was launched with a wave-shaped strap that had the purpose of lengthening the lever and providing a spin that stabilized the javelin in the air, the impulse run was generally much shorter, because its crossing or transitory steps were not defined.
How have athletes improved their javelin throw distance?
Before the first world war, only the best throw was taken into account. The results improved as time went by, going from 60 meters in the year 1908 to 70 meters in 1930. In 1953, the American Held broke the 80 metre barrier. For the year 1964, the Norwegian Pedersen threw the javelin at 87.12 meters, and then at 91.72 meters.
When was the javelin throw included in the Olympics?
The javelin throw has been part of the Olympic program since 1896. This discipline is part of the official program of the Olympics since London in 1908. In the year 1972, this record was improved to 93.80 meters. In 1985 certain parameters related to the construction of the javelin were modified in order for it to evolve.
What is the world record distance in javelin throw?
The world record of the javelin throw is held by the Czech legend Jan Zelezny who hurled the javelin to a scarcely believable distance of 98.48 metres. Only one other man has thrown more than 94 metres in the history of the sport. However, Zelezny’s record was set in 1986 after the javelin was redesigned. As a result, the records were restarted. Before this, the record for the longest javelin throw was held by the German Uwe Hohn who threw his javelin to a distance of 104.80 metres. Because the javelin was redesigned in 1986, Hohn’s record is considered as an eternal world record now. Coincidentally, Uwe Hohn is the coach of India’s gold medal winning javelin thrower, Neeraj Chopra.
Javelin throw regulations
Like any sport discipline, the javelin throw also has its rules, although subject to the entire sport of athletics. In 1956 the athletic regulations set some special limits, technical and gestural definitions.
- The javelin is thrown from a 4 metre wide corridor, ending in an 8 metre radius arc. The landing sector will be marked with two white lines 5 centimetres wide. The sector will thus have approximately 29 degrees.
- Athletes need to make an attempt within one minute. Normally, each athlete makes three attempts.
- The javelin must be caught by the string and thrown over the shoulder or throwing arm; It is not allowed to throw it in rotation nor can the athlete turn his back to the landing sector before releasing the javelin.
- In the fall, the metal point must touch the ground before any other part of the javelin.
- The competition uniform is short fabric pants, which can be synthetic or very tight to the body, from the ankles to the waist. In the competition, the competitor’s number is placed on the chest and another on the back.
- The shoes used are also called boots, on the sole they have spikes or nails including the heel that provide the athlete with greater support and grip.
- The javelin will be made up of 3 parts: head, shaft and rope handle. The shaft shall be constructed entirely of metal or other suitable homogeneous material and shall have a metal head ending in a sharp point.
- The length of the competition javelin in the male branch is 260 to 270 centimeters, its diameter is 25 to 30 millimeters in the thickest part and it has a maximum weight of 800 grams.
- For the female branch, the javelin has a length of 220 to 230 centimeters and a diameter between 20 and 25 millimeters, its maximum weight is 600 grams.
How is the javelin throw judged?
In a javelin throwing competition there must be four judges distributed as follows:
- The first judge stands next to the throwing aisle. From there you can verify that the athlete correctly executes the approach run and the javelin carrying. This judge is in charge of reading the tape measure and indicating the result obtained in the launch. He also carries a white flag to indicate the valid launches and a red one for the null ones.
- The second judge will be next to the limit arch. This position allows you to see if the athlete touches the line, thus validating or invalidating the throw.
- The third and fourth judges are located in the landing sector. From there they verify that the javelin lands correctly within the allowed zone and the distance that the throw reaches.