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History of Javelin Throwing

Javelin throwing remains true to its ancient Greek roots.
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The javelin throw was was developed in ancient Greece, inspired by hunting and war. This game simulated the use of a spear or similar weapon. Despite the javelin’s long history, the apparatus itself hasn’t changed much in a few thousand years. Still an Olympic event, the javelin throw is one of the original holdovers from the ancient Olympic Games. Today it’s one of the track and field events.


Javelin throwing was one of the pentathlon events in the Olympic Games in ancient Greece. In addition to the javelin, the pentathlon also included running, wrestling, discus throwing and jumps. The pentathlon was a five-event game played for the first time in the Olympics of 708 B.C.. The Isthmian, Pythian and Nemean games in ancient Greece also featured javelin throwing events. Javelin throwing and other pentathlon games were practiced throughout Europe as well, typically at local festivals. The ancient Olympics had two forms of the javelin event, one measuring distance thrown and another to hit a specific target.


The javelin was made of a length of wood approximately six feet long and had either a metal tip or a sharpened end point. The thrower held the javelin by his fingers using a leather thong attached to the pole’s center of gravity . The thong was meant to improve the thrower’s aim, precision and distance. In ancient Greece, javelin throwers competed on horseback, which further increased the skill required in the sport. The modern Olympic Games don't use horses for the javelin throw.


In 1840, the first recorded “meet” date for a pentathlon-type event occurred in Shropshire, England, according to Olympic.org. During the 1880s, events that included javelin throwing, running, jumping and walking were held throughout Europe, the U.S. and other Western countries. The pentathlon events, including javelin throwing, were featured in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Throughout history, javelin-throwing competitions have typically been held as part of several track and field events.

Modern Day

Today, the javelin throw is still an essential component to track and field events in many different local, regional, national and international sports competitions, including the Summer Olympic Games. The modern-day javelin is made from metal or wood, ending in a metal spear-like point, but it no longer has the leather thong like it did in ancient Greece. Various track-and-field or javelin-throwing associations and clubs exist on the local to international level as well, in which men and women alike compete.

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