What is Javelin?
Javelin is an event in track and field where athletes run and throw a weighted javelin, also known as a spear, for distance. This sport has origins in 700 BC and was part of the Ancient Olympic Games. Nowadays, this is a sport that takes place in both the men's decathlon and women's heptathlon.
The javelin must be thrown overhand, from one, by the grip of the javelin. The athlete cannot cross the foul line, also called the scratch line, during his turn. The javelin must land in a 29 degree "sector," tip first, which is an area at the opposite end of the playing runway. This is how the athlete's success is determined.
Javelin athletes wear their track and field uniform, which consists of a uniform top and shorts. These athletes must have incredible leg and arm strength, as the momentum of the run prior to the throw is essential. This sport combines both speed and strength and requires a lot of preparation. Repetition of throws is a great way to build arm strength
The competitions consist of rounds, which are attempts by each competitor in that specific round. In the case of a tie, the athletes make a second throw.
With roots dating back to the Ancient Olympic Games in 708 BC, the javelin throw is a truly unique event that combines both distance and target precision. It is also thought to have more boundary and event rules than any other sport in track and field. Let's get started.
We'll first discuss the dimensions and the boundaries of the field, the surface upon which all the jumping and throwing events are held. Afterwards, we'll break down the process of the javelin throw into five steps, and explore the rules and strategies for each one.
Javelin Glossary Terms
Here are all the terms we will be covering related to the sport of the javelin throw in track and field.
- Javelin Throw
- Standard Competition Area
- Throwing Circle
- Protective Cage
- Landing Sector
- Throwing Sector
- Impact Area
- The Scratch Line
- The Throwing Arc
- The Javelin
- The Shaft
- The Head
- The Grip
- The Cord
- The American Grip
- The Finnish Grip
- The Fork Grip
- The Crossover
- Impulse Step
- Transition Phase
- Foul Throw
- Fair Throw
The Javelin Throw Facility
The javelin throw facility is made up of three components:
1. The Runway
2. The Scratch Line
3. The Landing Sector
The runway is the designated region of all-weather polyurethane surfacing where the approach run is performed. In the javelin throw, the runway must be at least 30 m long and 4 m wide. The javelin throw is the only Olympic throwing event in which the competitors do not throw their implements from within the confines of a circle, but instead sprint down a runway with it.
The Scratch Line
The scratch line, or the throwing arc, is a curved arc located at the end of the runway that marks the foul line in the javelin throw. The competitor may not step on or beyond the scratch line at any point during or after the course of the throw. Disregarding the boundaries of the scratch line, even if it is accidental, will result in the attempt being declared an invalid foul throw.
The Landing Sector
The landing sector, also known as the throwing sector or the impact area, is the wedge-shaped area with a soft, even surface, upon which the implement in a throwing event must initially land in order for the throw to be considered valid. For the javelin throw, the landing sector is centered with respect to the runway and the scratch line, and has an angle of 28.96 degrees and a length of the square root of 9375.
Furthermore, the surface of the landing sector is typically made of a soft, even material, such as cinders or grass, which can absorb the impact of the discus as it lands, and prevent it from rolling or bouncing away, ensuring that the most accurate distance can be measured by the event officials.
The Number of Competitors
Only one competitor at a time is allowed to attempt the javelin throw. This means that only the eligible competitor may be in the javelin throw facility at any given time. All other athletes who have finished their attempts, or are awaiting their turn, must ensure that they are not in contact with any part of the runway, the scratch line, or the landing sector.
The javelin is the spear-like implement that is launched for distance in the javelin throw.
For the men's event, the javelin must have a minimum length of 260 cm and a weight of 800 g. For the women's event, the javelin must have a minimum length of 220 cm and a weight of 600 g.
There are three main components of the javelin:
1. The Shaft
2. The Head
3. The Cord
The shaft is the main body of the javelin, to which the head and the grip are attached. It is commonly made of wood or metal, and can be either hollow or solid. However, it must taper to a point on both ends, and the entirety of its surface must also be smooth and even, without any grooves or ridges.
The head is the sharp metal tip, 250 mm to 330 mm long, that is attached to the top end of the javelin shaft. An attempt in which the javelin does not land head-first on the tip will be declared an invalid foul throw. This is to ensure that the competitor is not merely hurling the javelin, but is in fact throwing with proper technique.
The cord, or the grip, is the smooth, non-slip surface that is placed over the javelin's center of gravity and is held by the competitor.
The Grip Styles
There are three different styles of gripping the javelin cord.
1. The American Grip
2. The Finnish Grip
3. The Fork Grip
The American Grip
With the American grip, the cord is grasped between the thumb and the index finger
The Finnish Grip
With the Finnish Grip, the cord is grasped between the thumb and the middle finger.
The Fork Grip
With the Fork Grip, the cord is grasped between the middle finger and the index finger.
The javelin must be held in one of the three styles above. No other method is permissible, and will result in the attempt being declared an invalid foul throw.
The Number of Attempts
Every competitor is given three attempts to throw the javelin as far as possible from the runway onto the landing sector. Although all fair throws of a competitor will be recorded by the officials, only the one with the greatest distance will be used to determine the athlete's standing in the event.
A long jump attempt officially begins when an event official starts the large timing device located at the side of the runway, about halfway from the takeoff board.
The Time Limit
For each attempt, the competitor is typically given a total of 1 minute to start his wind up for the throw. If a competitor fails to initiate his attempt before 1 minute has passed, the attempt will be declared a foul throw.
The Start Point
Unlike the foot racing events of track and field, there is no official start line for the javelin throw. Instead, competitors are free to initiate their approach run at any point within the boundaries of the runway. An attempt in which the competitor steps on or over the boundary lines of the runway will be deemed an invalid foul jump.
The Start Position
At the optimal start point, the javelin is held in the athlete's throwing hand at head-height over the throwing shoulder. The shaft of the javelin should be pointing directly ahead towards the landing sector, and the entire javelin must be completely horizontal without any incline. The throwing elbow must also be held up at shoulder level and pointed forward.
Throughout the entirety of the attempt until just before the release, the javelin must always be held above the athlete's shoulders, and may only be grasped at the cord by one hand in one of the three styles. An attempt in which the javelin drops below the shoulder level, or is not grasped at the cord by one hand only, will be declared an invalid foul throw.
Due to the length of the javelin, the tapered tail end of the shaft may come into contact with the ground during the throw without any penalty. However, if any other part of the javelin comes into contact with the ground, the attempt will be declared an invalid foul throw, as the javelin will be considered to have landed outside the boundaries of the landing sector.
The Check Marks
Competitors may place a maximum of two check marks alongside the runway, outside the boundary lines, to assist them in executing a successful throw. A check mark is a small marker that serves as a guide or a milestone during the approach run.
The Objectives of Approaches
The approach run is the first stage of the javelin throw, in which the competitor sprints down the runway to accelerate to maximum speed just before the release. This will build up the necessary power and momentum for the javelin to travel the greatest possible horizontal distance through the air.
The Approach Run Position
Although the starting position will differ for every individual, most elite competitors often begin their approach runs at about 13 - 17 strides away from the scratch line.
The Approach Run Strategy
From the start point and position, the athlete must smoothly accelerate down the runway towards the scratch line. Throughout the run, the hips must be held perpendicular to the landing sector, and the javelin must continue to be held horizontally at head-height, with the throwing elbow up at shoulder level and pointing forward. The non-throwing arm will be swinging front and back in typical running fashion, while the throwing arm will bob alongside the head.
Furthermore, the back must also be held straight upright to help maintain the javelin's horizontal position at head-height, and the eyes must be looking forward at the landing sector to improve precision and accuracy.
The javelin must be held at or above the athlete's shoulder-height at all times.
The speed that the competitor reaches just before the takeoff is a key factor in determining the horizontal distance that the javelin will be able to travel through the air. The greater the speed upon takeoff, the greater the javelin's trajectory will be. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial that the competitor understands his personal sprinting style, technique, and level of performance in order to gauge how much time and buildup he will need on the runway to reach maximum speed for the release.
The Objectives of Crossovers
The crossover is the second stage of the javelin throw, and is also known as the transition phase or the impulse step. Here, the athlete positions his body in preparation for the release while maintaining the speed and momentum that have been built up through the approach run.
The Crossover Position
The crossover occurs as the athlete takes his second-last stride before the scratch line.
The Crossover Strategy
The strategy for the crossover can be divided into two parts:
1. The second-last stride
2. The final stride
The Second-Last Stride
As the athlete takes his second-last stride, he must turn his body sideways so that the non-throwing side of the hip is facing the landing sector. By facing the side, the athlete will not only be able to access a greater range of motion and achieve the optimal release position, but maintain power and stability as well.
As the non-throwing side of the hip is rotated in front, the throwing arm must also straighten and stretch out behind the athlete, pulling the javelin along with it. Note that both the throwing and non-throwing arm must be fully extended at about shoulder-height to further aid in balance and accuracy.
If the approach run had been calculated properly, the end of the second-last stride will place the throwing leg in front of the body. As the throwing leg comes into contact with the ground, the hips should begin twisting towards the non-throwing side so that the torso is again in full frontal view of the landing sector.
The Final Stride
Once the throwing foot has landed on the ground, the non-throwing leg must now begin to cross over in front of the throwing leg. Simultaneously, the throwing arm, while continuing to pull the javelin behind the athlete's body, should start tilting the head of the javelin up to a 45-degree angle. The non-throwing arm must be fully extended and pointing forward at about shoulder-height.
Although the position of the hips will be shifted multiple times throughout the course of the throw, the athlete may not turn his back to the landing area at any point until the javelin is fully airborne. Doing so will result in the attempt being declared as an invalid foul throw.
The Objectives of The Release
The objective of the release is to launch the javelin into flight at precisely the height, angle, and velocity that will allow it to retain as much power and momentum as possible, and thus travel the maximum horizontal distance through the air.
The Release Strategy
Once the non-throwing leg has crossed over and is firmly planted on the ground, the athlete must push off with his throwing foot, transferring his body weight forward onto the non-throwing leg. At the same time, the hips must again be rotated so that the non-throwing side is facing the landing sector again. Next, once all of the athlete's weight is resting on the non-throwing leg, the throwing arm must be fully straightened out and swung forward, keeping the elbow high. Finally, when the throwing hand is ahead of the non-throwing foot and is as vertically high up as possible, the javelin must immediately be released.
But we're not done yet! The follow through is another crucial step in ensuring that the competitor's attempt is a valid fair throw.
The Follow Through
The competitor may not step on or beyond the scratch line at any point during or after the course of the throw. Disregarding the boundaries of the scratch line, even if it is accidental, will result in the attempt being declared an invalid foul throw.
Therefore, in order to eliminate the possibility of losing his balance and inadvertently stumbling onto or beyond the scratch line, the athlete must immediately initiate the follow through after the javelin has been released.
The Follow Through Strategies
Both feet must immediately be fixed onto the ground and remain firmly in place, while the throwing arm continues on its swing trajectory across the torso. At the same time, the athlete must also twist his torso to follow the path of the throwing arm, rotating the upper body from the throwing to the non-throwing side. Doing so helps ensure that the athlete retains his balance and does not commit a foul throw.
The Completion of the Attempt
Every competitor is given three attempts to throw the javelin as far as possible from the runway onto the landing sector. A competitor is deemed as having completed an attempt at the instant when the javelin makes contact with the ground.
A fair throw refers to an attempt in which the competitor has abided by all the boundary rules throughout and after the course of the throw, and the javelin has landed within the boundaries of the landing sector.
A foul throw refers to an attempt in which the competitor has broken one or more of the event rules. The distance thrown by the athlete in a foul throw will not be recorded or considered in determining the winner.
A foul throw is declared when the one or more of the following occurs:
1. The competitor has failed to initiate the attempt before the appropriate amount of time has elapsed.
2. A part of the athlete's body or clothing has made contact with or has crossed over the lines of the runway.
3. The competitor has not grasped the javelin in one of three allowable styles.
4. The competitor has turned his back to the landing sector before the javelin was airborne.
5. The competitor has stepped on or beyond the scratch line during or after the attempt.
6. The javelin was not thrown over the upper arm and shoulder.
7. Upon landing, the spot that the javelin made initial contact with was on or beyond the boundaries of the landing sector.
8. The javelin has not landed head-first on the tip.
Every competitor is given three attempts to throw the javelin the greatest possible distance onto the landing sector. A total of three failed attempts or foul throws will result in the elimination of the competitor.
The Distance Measured
The distance travelled by the javelin is measured in a straight line from the center of the scratch line to the point on the landing sector where the head of the javelin landed.
The winner of a javelin throw event is the competitor whose javelin has travelled the greatest distance. Note that although all fair throws of a competitor will be recorded by the officials, only the one with the greatest distance will be used to determine the athlete's standing in the event.
In the rare event that the greatest distance thrown by two or more athletes is exactly the same, the event official will then examine the second-greatest distances that have been thrown by the tied competitors. The individual with the greatest second-greatest distance will then be declared as the winner.