How it works
Using one arm, a metal-tipped javelin is thrown as far as possible. The athlete must hold the javelin by its corded grip with his or her little finger closest to the tip of the implement.
The men’s javelin must weigh at least 800g and be 2.6m-2.7m long while the women’s javelin must weigh 600g and be 2.2m-2.3m long.
For the throw to be measured the athlete must not turn his or her back to the landing area at any stage during their approach and throw; they must throw the javelin over the upper part of their throwing arm; and they must not cross the foul line, aka scratch line, at any time. The javelin must also land tip first and within the marked 29-degree sector.
If the tip touches the ground first the throw is measured from this point. Athletes will commonly throw four or six times per competition. In the event of a tie, the winner will be the athlete with the next best effort.
Throwing the javelin as sport evolved from the everyday use of the spear in hunting and warfare. It was widely practised in Ancient Greece. And incorporated into the Olympic Games in 708BC as part of the pentathlon. It has been part of the modern Olympic Games programme since 1908 for men, and 1932 for women.
Did you know
In 1986 the men's javelin was redesigned: its centre of gravity was moved forward by 4cm. This shortened throwing distances by approximately 10 per cent by bringing its nose down earlier and more steeply. This was done because the men, following a World record of 104.80m by East Germany's Uwe Hohn in 1984, were in danger of throwing the javelin beyond the space available in normal stadiums. In 1999, the women's javelin was similarly redesigned.
European athletes have historically dominated the men's event, particularly from the Scandinavian countries, but Trinidad junior Keshorn Walcott caused a sensation at the London 2012 Olympic Games when he became the first man from outside Europe to win an Olympic medal since 1972 and only the second non-European Olympic champion.
The Czech thrower is the only man to win three successive Olympic gold medals in the javelin, triumphing in 1992, 1996 and 2000; he also took the silver in 1988 and won world titles in 1993, 1995 and 2001. Zelezny still has the best five throws ever, culminating in his still-standing 1996 world record of 98.48m.
The Norwegian achieved everything in the sport. She set two world records, won twice at the IAAF World Championships in 1993 and 1997 as well as getting the 1994 European Championships gold medal. But her crowning glory was when she won at the Olympic Games in 2000.