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.
Although today's javelin is commonly termed a "spear," the nickname isn't historically accurate. In ancient times, spears were used for stabbing and javelins for throwing, leading to the inclusion of the javelin throw in the ancient Olympics. The event became part of the modern Olympic Games men's program in 1908. On the women's side, the javelin throw entered the Olympics in 1932. The javelin throw is the only Olympic throwing event in which competitors run forward with the implement, rather than throwing from a circle.
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.
The first thing some throwers must learn is that the javelin is thrown with the entire body. The overhand delivery may remind many athletes of baseball or football throwing, but those techniques won’t work when you’re throwing the javelin. Indeed, some coaches feel that strong-armed baseball and football throwers don’t make good javelin competitors because the motions are so different. As with other track and field throwing events, javelin throwers must combine speed with positioning, accelerating down the runway at high speed, then placing their bodies in just the right position to make the strongest possible throw.
Javelin throwing technique:
- Grip: The javelin should be held horizontally, in the palm of your hand. There are three different grip styles: 1. American Style (grip the cord between the thumb and index finger); 2. Finnish Style (Grip the cord between the thumb and middle finger); 3. Fork Style (Grip the cord between the index and middle fingers).
- Preparing for Acceleration: Hold the javelin high, over your right shoulder (for a right-handed thrower), with your elbow up and pointed forward. The javelin is aimed in the target direction with the point tipped slightly down.
- Acceleration: Begin running and accelerate smoothly toward the throwing line. Run straight ahead with your hips perpendicular to the target area. Maintain the javelin’s position. Beginners will generally use fewer than a dozen strides before throwing. Experienced throwers may use 13 to 17.
- Crossover: With your final two strides, turn your body so your left hip (again, for a right-handed thrower) is pointed toward the target area. The left leg crosses over the right as you pull the javelin back. Your throwing hand should be at shoulder-height and your arm straight.
- Begin the Throw: Plant your left leg and push off with your right. Turn your hips so they are again perpendicular to the target area as you transfer your weight forward. Then bring your arm up and forward, keeping your elbow high.
- Complete the Throw: Release the javelin while your throwing hand is as high as possible and is ahead of your front foot. Follow through completely.
Safety: The javelin competition evolved from spear hunting several thousand years ago. Today’s javelin isn’t designed to kill anything, but its sharp point is obviously still dangerous. For that reason, younger athletes will often begin with rubber-tipped javelins to avoid injuries and calm nervous parents. Whether the javelins are rubber- or metal-tipped, coaches and meet officials must be vigilant to keep everyone far from the landing area when younger competitors are throwing, because their aim is more likely to be off.
The throwers’ health is another safety concern. Javelin throwing is very taxing on the body, so young athletes should learn proper warm-up and stretching routines. Additionally, growing athletes will likely perform many drills that deal with separate aspects of the throw, in part to limit the number of full throws they perform.
- Throwing Form: Although you can perform variations during your run-up and crossovers, three aspects of the throw must remain uniform among all competitors. You must hold the grip on the javelin, release it using an over-the-shoulder technique, and you may not turn your back to the field until the javelin leaves your hand. Throwing in another manner results in a foul. This rule ensures safety because the javelin remains under control when throwing it over your shoulder.
- During the Throw: After beginning your throw, you may not touch any boundary line of the runway. Touching outside the lines results in a foul. If the javelin drops during the course of your throw, it is a foul; however, the tail of the javelin may hit the ground during the throw with no penalty.
- Landing: Your javelin must land tip first. A throw landing flat or tail first is a foul and is not measured. When you throw the javelin with proper technique, it should land tip first because of the position of the center of gravity and the javelin design. This ensures that you throw the javelin with technique, rather than hurling it. The javelin must also land within the two sectors in the field set at an angle of 28.95 degrees to the runway. When the javelin lands outside the sector, your throw is foul.
- Following the Throw: After completing your throw, no part of your body can touch over the foul line arc. A white line or piece of wood at the end of the runway designates the foul line. Once the javelin lands within the sectors, you may walk off the runway behind the arc line. When any part of your body goes over the line, whether during the follow through of your throw or accidentally walking out the front of the runway, a foul will result. This is to ensure that you are under control when leaving the runway following your throw.