The history of javelin throwing

The javelin throw has the greatest connection to warfare of all the Olympic events. 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 released this thong unwound giving the javelin a spiraled flight.

The modern javelin weighs 800 grams. It could originally be made of wood or metal, but current javelins must be made of metal. The javelin is the only throwing event not to take place in a ring. The athlete is allowed a straight run before releasing his or her implement and has six throws in competition.

Whereas the discus and the shot put were dominated by U.S. athletes, the javelin and hammer throw have been dominated by Europeans, especially Scandinavians. Finland's Matti Järvinen achieved the most world records - 10, set between 1930 and 1936. Of the 69 Olympic medals that have been awarded in the men's javelin, 32 have gone to competitors from Norway, Sweden, or Finland.

The first javelin throwing competition at the Olympic Games was held in Athens in 1906. The women held their first Olympic javelin competition in Los Angeles in 1932.

In 1912 was the only appearance in the Olympics of two-handed javelin throw, 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.

The javelin is the only throwing event not to take place in a ring. The athlete is allowed a straight run before releasing his or her implement and has six throws in competition. 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 other, heavier throwing athletes.

Various minor modifications in the event were made over the years, but the most radical change in the wake of Uwe Hohn's throw of 104.80 meters in 1984. Because the risk to spectators from throws of this magnitude became very real, the IAAF made a decision in 1986 to move the center of gravity back 10 centimeters. This new javelin resulted in throws 10 to 15 meters shorter and made the javelin more prone to stick in the ground.

The record with the new javelin has moved from 85.74m (1986) up to 98.48 meters (1996). Twenty-five javelin throwers have achieved a world record, 21 with the old javelin (34 times), and 4 with the new javelin (8 times). A number of records with the new javelin were disallowed because these new javelins were later judged to have been designed outside existing regulations. Nine world record holders have also been Olympic champions: Lemming, Myyrä, Lundqvist, Järvinen, Danielsen, Lusis, Wolfermann, Nemeth and Zelezny. Only two (Danielsen, 1956; Nemeth 1976) achieved their world records in Olympic competition.

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).

source: Wikipedia