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Javelin throw

World Athletics Championships 2007 in Osaka - German javelin thrower Stephan Steding
Bregje Crolla during Europacup 2007

The javelin throw is a track and field event where the javelin, a spear about 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) in length, is thrown. The javelin thrower gains momentum by running within a predetermined area. Javelin throwing is an event of both the men's decathlon and the women's heptathlon.


During the era between the Mycenaean times and the Roman Empire, the javelin was a commonly used offensive weapon. Being lighter than the spear, the javelin would be thrown rather than thrust and thus allowed long distance attacks against one’s enemy. Athletes, however, used javelins that were much lighter than military ones because the idea of the event was to demonstrate distance rather than penetration. The one major difference between the javelin of the ancient games and the javelin of more modern times is a leather thong, called an ankyle that was wound around the middle of the shaft. Athletes would hold the javelin by the thong and when the javelin was released this thong unwound giving the javelin a spiraled flight.

The javelin throw has a particularly strong tradition in the Nordic nations of Europe. Of the 69 Olympic medals that have been awarded in the men's javelin, 32 have gone to competitors from Norway, Sweden or Finland. Finland is the only nation to have ever swept the medals at a currently recognized official Olympics, and has done so twice, in 1920 and 1932. (However, Sweden swept the first four places at the 1906 Intercalated Games. Finland's 1920 sweep also featured an additional fourth place finish. Sweeping the first four places is no longer possible, as only three entrants per country are allowed.) In 1912 Finland also swept the medals in the only appearance in the Olympics of two-handed javelin, an event in which the implement was separately thrown with both the right hand and the left hand and the marks were added together. Quite popular in Finland and Sweden at the time, this event soon faded into obscurity, together with similar variations of the shot and the discus; Sweden's Yngve Häckner, with his total of 114.28 m from 1917, was the last official world record holder.[1]

Rules and competitions

The size, shape, minimum weight, and center of gravity of the javelin are all defined by IAAF rules. In international competition, men throw a javelin between 2.6 and 2.7 m (8 ft 6 in and 8 ft 10 in) in length and 800 g (28 oz) in weight, and women throw a javelin between 2.2 and 2.3 m (7 ft 3 in and 7 ft 7 in) in length and 600 g (21 oz) in weight. The javelin has a grip, about 150 mm (5.9 in) wide, made of cord and located at the javelin's center of gravity (0.9 to 1.06 m (2 ft 11 in to 3 ft 6 in) from the javelin tip for the men's javelin and 0.8 to 0.92 m (2 ft 7 in to 3 ft 0 in) from the javelin tip for the women's javelin).

Matti Järvinen throwing the javelin at the 1932 Olympics

Unlike the other throwing events (shotput, discus, and hammer), the technique used to throw the javelin is dictated by IAAF rules and "non-orthodox" techniques are not permitted. The javelin must be held at its grip and thrown overhand, over the athlete's shoulder or upper arm. Further, the athlete is prohibited from turning completely around such that his back faces the direction of throw. In practice, this prevents athletes from attempting to spin and hurl the javelin sidearm in the style of a discus throw. Instead of being confined to a circle, javelin throwers have a runway 4 m (13 ft) wide and at least 30 m (98 ft) in length, ending in a curved arc from which their throw will be measured; athletes typically use this distance to gain momentum in a "run-up" to their throw. Like the other throwing events, the competitor may not leave the throwing area (the runway) until after the implement lands. The need to come to a stop behind the throwing arc limits both how close the athlete can come to the line before the release as well as the maximum speed achieved at the time of release.

The javelin is thrown towards a "sector" covering an angle of 28.96 degrees extending outwards from the arc at the end of the runway. A throw is legal only if the tip of the javelin lands within this sector, and the tip strikes the ground before any other part of the javelin. The distance of the throw is measured from the throwing arc to the point where the tip of the javelin landed, rounded down to the nearest centimeter.

Competition rules are similar to other throwing events: a round consists of one attempt by each competitor in turn, and competitions typically consist of three to six rounds. The competitor with the longest single legal throw (over all rounds) is the winner; in the case of a tie the competitors' second-longest throws are also considered. Competitions involving large numbers of athletes sometimes use a "cut": all competitors compete in the first three rounds, but only athletes who are currently among the top eight or have achieved some minimum distances are permitted to attempt to improve on their distance in additional rounds (typically three).

Javelin redesigns

A Bulgarian javelin thrower, 1934

On 1 April 1986, the men's javelin ( ) was redesigned by the governing body (the IAAF Technical Committee). They decided to change the rules for javelin construction because of the increasingly frequent flat landings and the resulting discussions and protests when these attempts were declared valid or invalid by competition judges. The world record had also crept up to a potentially dangerous level, 104.80 m (343.8 ft) by Uwe Hohn. With throws exceeding 100 meters, it was becoming difficult to stage the competition - safely - within the confines of a stadium infield. The javelin was redesigned so that the centre of gravity was moved 4 cm (1.6 in) forward, while the surface areas in front of and behind the centre of gravity were reduced and increased, respectively. This had the effect of reducing lift and increasing the downward pitching moment. This brings the nose down earlier, reducing the flight distance by around 10% but also causing the javelin to stick in the ground more consistently. In 1999, the women's javelin (600 grams (1.32 lb)) was similarly redesigned.[2]

Modifications that manufacturers made to recover some of the lost distance, by increasing tail drag (using holes, rough paint or dimples), were forbidden at the end of 1991 and marks made using implements with such modifications removed from the record books. Seppo Räty had achieved a world record of 96.96 m (318.1 ft) in 1991 with such a design, but this record was nullified.

Technique and training

Unlike other throwing events, javelin allows the competitor to build speed over a considerable distance. In addition to the core and upper body strength necessary to deliver the implement, javelin throwers benefit from the agility and athleticism typically associated with running and jumping events. Thus, the athletes share more physical characteristics with sprinters than with others, although they still need the skill of heavier throwing athletes.

Traditional free-weight training is often used by javelin throwers. Metal-rod exercises and resistance band exercises can be used to train a similar action to the javelin throw to increase power and intensity. Without proper strength and flexibility, throwers can become extremely injury prone, especially in the shoulder and elbow. Core stability can help in the transference of physical power and force from the ground through the body to the javelin. Stretching and sprint training are used to enhance the speed of the athlete at the point of release, and subsequently, the speed of the javelin. At release, a javelin can reach speeds approaching 113 km/h (70 mph).

US High School

Due to the fear of liability, the javelin throw is not an event in NFHS high school competition in 36 states, though USATF youth competitions for the same aged athletes do hold javelin competitions.[3] At various points in time, high schools have attempted to create substitute events, including the softball throw, football throw[4] and the grenade throw,[5] throwing different objects under rules similar to javelin throw rules.


Javelin throwers have been selected as a main motif in numerous collectors' coins. One of the recent samples is the €5 Finnish 10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics commemorative coin, minted in 2005 to commemorate the 2005 World Championships in Athletics. On the obverse of the coin, a javelin thrower is depicted. On the reverse, legs of hurdle runners with the Helsinki Olympic Stadium tower in the background can be seen.

A women's and a men's javelin

All-time top ten (current models)


  • (Updated June 2012)
Rank Mark Athlete Place Date
1 98.48  Jan Železný (CZE) Jena 1996-05-25
2 93.09  Aki Parviainen (FIN) Kuortane 1999-06-26
3 92.61  Sergey Makarov (RUS) Sheffield 2002-06-30
4 92.60  Raymond Hecht (GER) Oslo 1995-07-21
5 91.69  Konstadinós Gatsioúdis (GRE) Kuortane 2000-06-24
6 91.59  Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR) Oslo 2006-06-02
7 91.53  Tero Pitkämäki (FIN) Kuortane 2005-06-26
8 91.46  Steve Backley (GBR) Auckland 1992-01-25
9 91.29  Breaux Greer (USA) Indianapolis 2007-06-21
10 90.73  Vadims Vasiļevskis (LAT) Tallinn 2007-07-22


  • (Updated September 2014)
Rank Mark Athlete Place Date
1 72.28  Barbora Špotáková (CZE) Stuttgart 2008-09-13
2 71.99  Mariya Abakumova (RUS) Daegu 2011-09-02
3 71.70  Osleidys Menéndez (CUB) Helsinki 2005-08-14
4 70.20  Christina Obergföll (GER) Munich 2007-06-23
5 69.48  Trine Hattestad (NOR) Oslo 2000-07-28
6 69.35  Sunette Viljoen (RSA) New York 2012-06-09
7 68.34  Steffi Nerius (GER) Elstal 2008-08-31
8 67.67  Sonia Bisset (CUB) Salamanca 2005-07-06
9 67.51  Miréla Manjani (GRE) Sydney 2000-09-30
10 67.32  Linda Stahl (GER) New York 2014-06-14

Olympic medalists



Games Gold Silver Bronze
1932 Los Angeles
 Babe Didrikson (USA)  Ellen Braumüller (GER)  Tilly Fleischer (GER)
1936 Berlin
 Tilly Fleischer (GER)  Luise Krüger (GER)  Maria Kwaśniewska (POL)
1948 London
 Herma Bauma (AUT)  Kaisa Parviainen (FIN)  Lily Carlstedt (DEN)
1952 Helsinki
 Dana Zátopková (TCH)  Aleksandra Chudina (URS)  Yelena Gorchakova (URS)
1956 Melbourne
 Inese Jaunzeme (URS)  Marlene Ahrens (CHI)  Nadezhda Konyayeva (URS)
1960 Rome
 Elvīra Ozoliņa (URS)  Dana Zátopková (TCH)  Birutė Kalėdienė (URS)
1964 Tokyo
 Mihaela Peneş (ROU)  Márta Rudas (HUN)  Yelena Gorchakova (URS)
1968 Mexico City
 Angéla Németh (HUN)  Mihaela Peneş (ROU)  Eva Janko (AUT)
1972 Munich
 Ruth Fuchs (GDR)  Jacqueline Todten (GDR)  Kate Schmidt (USA)
1976 Montreal
 Ruth Fuchs (GDR)  Marion Becker (FRG)  Kate Schmidt (USA)
1980 Moscow
 María Caridad Colón (CUB)  Saida Gunba (URS)  Ute Hommola (GDR)
1984 Los Angeles
 Tessa Sanderson (GBR)  Tiina Lillak (FIN)  Fatima Whitbread (GBR)
1988 Seoul
 Petra Felke (GDR)  Fatima Whitbread (GBR)  Beate Koch (GDR)
1992 Barcelona
 Silke Renk (GER)  Natalya Shikolenko (EUN)  Karen Forkel (GER)
1996 Atlanta
 Heli Rantanen (FIN)  Louise McPaul (AUS)  Trine Hattestad (NOR)
2000 Sydney
 Trine Hattestad (NOR)  Mirela Maniani-Tzelili (GRE)  Osleidys Menéndez (CUB)
2004 Athens
 Osleidys Menéndez (CUB)  Steffi Nerius (GER)  Mirela Maniani (GRE)
2008 Beijing
 Barbora Špotáková (CZE)  Mariya Abakumova (RUS)  Christina Obergföll (GER)
2012 London
 Barbora Špotáková (CZE)  Christina Obergföll (GER)  Linda Stahl (GER)

Season's bests


Rank Mark Athlete Place
1971 90.68  Jānis Lūsis (URS) Helsinki
1972 93.80  Jānis Lūsis (URS) Stockholm
1973 94.08  Klaus Wolfermann (FRG) Leverkusen
1974 89.58  Hannu Siitonen (FIN) Rome
1975 91.38  Miklós Németh (HUN) Budapest
1976 94.58  Miklós Németh (HUN) Montreal
1977 94.10  Miklós Németh (HUN) Stockholm
1978 94.22  Michael Wessing (FRG) Oslo
1979 93.84  Pentti Sinersaari (FIN) Auckland
1980 96.72  Ferenc Paragi (HUN) Tata
1981 92.48  Detlef Michel (GDR) Berlin
1982 95.80  Bob Roggy (USA) Stuttgart
1983 99.72  Tom Petranoff (USA) Westwood
1984 104.80  Uwe Hohn (GDR) Berlin
1985 96.96  Uwe Hohn (GDR) Canberra

A new model was introduced in 1986, and all records started fresh.

Rank Mark Athlete Place
1986 85.74  Klaus Tafelmeier (FRG) Como
1987 87.66  Jan Železný (TCH) Nitra
1988 86.88  Jan Železný (TCH) Leverkusen
1989 87.60  Kazuhiro Mizoguchi (JPN) San José
1990 89.58  Steve Backley (GBR) Stockholm
1991 90.82  Kimmo Kinnunen (FIN) Tokyo
1992 91.46  Steve Backley (GBR) Auckland
1993 95.66  Jan Železný (CZE) Sheffield
1994 91.82  Jan Železný (CZE) Sheffield
1995 92.60  Raymond Hecht (GER) Oslo
1996 98.48  Jan Železný (CZE) Jena
1997 94.02  Jan Železný (CZE) Stellenbosch
1998 90.88  Aki Parviainen (FIN) Tartu
1999 93.09  Aki Parviainen (FIN) Kuortane
2000 91.69  Konstadinós Gatsioúdis (GRE) Kuortane
2001 92.80  Jan Železný (CZE) Edmonton
2002 92.61  Sergey Makarov (RUS) Sheffield
2003 90.11  Sergey Makarov (RUS) Dessau
2004 87.73  Aleksandr Ivanov (RUS) Ostrava
2005 91.53  Tero Pitkämäki (FIN) Kuortane
2006 91.59  Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR) Oslo
2007 91.29  Breaux Greer (USA) Indianapolis
2008 90.57  Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR) Beijing
2009 91.28  Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR) Zürich
2010 90.37  Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR) Florø
2011 90.61  Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR) Byrkjelo
2012 88.34  Vítězslav Veselý (CZE) London
2013 89.03  Tero Pitkämäki (FIN) Bad Köstritz
2014 89.21  Ihab El-Sayed (EGY) Shangai


Rank Mark Athlete Place
1980 70.08  Tatyana Biryulina (URS) Podolsk
1981 71.88  Antoaneta Todorova (BUL) Zagreb
1982 74.20  Sofia Sakorafa (GRE) Hania
1983 74.76  Tiina Lillak (FIN) Tampere
1984 74.72  Petra Felke (GDR) Celje
1985 75.40  Petra Felke (GDR) Schwerin
1986 77.44  Fatima Whitbread (GBR) Stuttgart
1987 78.90  Petra Felke (GDR) Leipzig
1988 80.00  Petra Felke (GDR) Potsdam
1989 76.88  Petra Felke (GDR) Macerata
1990 73.08  Petra Felke (GER) Manaus
1991 71.44  Trine Hattestad (NOR) Fana
1992 70.36  Natalya Shikolenko (BLR) Moscow
1993 72.12  Trine Hattestad (NOR) Oslo
1994 71.40  Natalya Shikolenko (BLR) Seville
1995 71.18  Natalya Shikolenko (BLR) Zürich
1996 69.42  Steffi Nerius (GER) Monaco
1997 69.66  Trine Hattestad (NOR) Helsinki
1998 70.10  Tanja Damaske (GER) Berlin

A new model was introduced in 1999 and all records started fresh.

Maria Abakumova 2011 World Athletics Championships
Rank Mark Athlete Place
1999 68.19  Trine Hattestad (NOR) Fana
2000 69.48  Trine Hattestad (NOR) Oslo
2001 71.54  Osleidys Menéndez (CUB) Rethymno
2002 67.47  Miréla Manjani (GRE) Munich
2003 66.52  Miréla Manjani (GRE) Paris
2004 71.53  Osleidys Menéndez (CUB) Athens
2005 71.70  Osleidys Menéndez (CUB) Helsinki
2006 66.91  Christina Obergföll (GER) Athens
2007 70.20  Christina Obergföll (GER) Munich
2008 72.28  Barbora Špotáková (CZE) Stuttgart
2009 68.92  Mariya Abakumova (RUS) Berlin
2010 68.89  Mariya Abakumova (RUS) Doha
2011 71.99  Mariya Abakumova (RUS) Daegu
2012 69.55  Barbora Špotáková (CZE) London
2013 70.53  Mariya Abakumova (RUS) Berlin
2014 67.99  Barbora Spotáková (CZE) Brussels

See also


  1. ^ Vélez Blasco, Miguel. "Part III: Llançaments - Tema 12 Javelina" (pdf) (in Catalan). Institut Nacional d'Educació Física de Catalunya / Federació Catalana d'Atletisme. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^

External links

  • (IAAF Statement) – statement of reasons to modify the javelin design
  • Masters World Rankings
  • IAAF competition rules

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