How it works
Athletes throw a metal ball (16lb/7.26kg for men, 4kg/8.8lb for women) for distance that’s attached to a grip by a steel wire no longer than 1.22m while remaining inside a seven-foot (2.135m) diameter circle.
In order for the throw to be measured, the ball must land inside a marked 35-degree sector and the athlete must not leave the circle before it has landed, and then only from the rear half of the circle.
The thrower usually makes three or four spins before releasing the ball. 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.
Legend traces the concept of the hammer throw to approximately 2000BC and the Tailteann Games in Tara, Ireland, where the Celtic warrior Culchulainn gripped a chariot wheel by its axle, whirled it around his head and threw it a huge distance.
The wheel was later replaced by a boulder attached to a wooden handle and the use of a sledgehammer is considered to have originated in England and Scotland during the Middle Ages. A 16th century drawing shows the English king Henry VIII throwing a blacksmith’s hammer.
The hammer was first contested by men at the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris but the first global competition for women was the 1999 IAAF World Championships.
Did you know
When Germany's Karl-Hans Riehm set a world record of 78.50m at a meeting in the German town of Rehlingen on 19 May 1975, all six of his throws were better than the previous world record of 76.66m.
US thrower John Flanagan is the only athlete to win three Olympic hammer titles, taking the gold medal on the first three occasions it was contested in 1900, 1904 and 1908.
The only time a world record has been set to win a women's global crown was when Poland's Anita Wlodarczyk won at the 2009 IAAF World Championships with a throw of 77.96m.
The Russian, competing for the Soviet Union, won two Olympic gold medals in 1976 and 1980. He then had to wait another 11 years before winning the 1991 world title at the age of 36. He also won at three successive European Championships in 1978, 1982 and 1986. Sedykh set six world records and his 1986 mark of 86.74m still stands on top of the world all-time list.
Since the introduction of the women’s hammer at major championships just over a decade ago, few can match the record of the powerful Cuban. She won world titles in 2001, 2003 and 2005 and earned Olympic silver medals in 2004 and 2008.