How it works
The shot, a metal ball (7.26kg/16lb for men, 4kg/8.8lb for women), is put – not thrown – with one hand. The aim is to put it as far as possible from a seven-foot diameter (2.135m) circle that has a curved 10-centimetre high toe-board at the front.
In order for the put to be measured, the shot must not drop below the line of the athlete’s shoulders at any stage of the put and must land inside a designated 35-degree sector. The athlete, meanwhile, must not touch the top of the toe-board during their put or leave the circle before the ball has landed, and then only from the rear half of the circle.
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.
The Ancient Greeks threw stones as a sport and soldiers are recorded as throwing cannon balls in the Middle Ages but a version of the modern form of the discipline can be traced to the Highland Games in Scotland during the 19th century where competitors threw a rounded cube, stone or metal weight from behind a line.
The men’s shot put has been part of every modern Olympics since 1896, but women putters had to wait until 1948 before they could compete at the Games.
Did you know
The rotational technique now used by many of the world's top throwers was first popularised by Soviet thrower Aleksandr Baryshnikov in the early 1970s after being invented by his coach Viktor Alexeyev. Baryshnikov went on to set a world record of 22.00m in 1976.
Three men have won back-to-back Olympic titles: Ralph Rose (USA) in 1904 and 1908, Parry O'Brien (USA) in 1952 and 1956 and Poland's Tomasz Majewski in 2008 and 2012.
In 2013, New Zealand's Valerie Adams became the first athlete to win four successive world titles in the shot.
In 1956, the US thrower was the first athlete for more than 40 years to retain his Olympic title. He also won a silver medal in 1960 and is credited with developing the glide technique, sometimes known as the O’Brien technique, which involves the putter facing backwards at the rear of the ring and then rotating through 180 degrees before releasing the shot.
The popular and charismatic German was the dominant shot putter throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. She won successive world titles in 1995, 1997 and 1999 and landed the Olympic gold medal in 1996.