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The sport of javelin is one of eight field events included in the Olympic Games. The object of the sport is for the athlete to throw the javelin, a light spear approximately 2.5 m long, while moving along a runway measuring between 30 and 36.5 m in length. Momentum is gained by the athlete running up to a designated point and then releasing the javelin.1

History of the Sport of Javelin

The sport originated from basic human necessity. The first spear throwers were primitive hunters searching for prey. During the Mycenaean times in Ancient Greece (ca. 1600 to 1100 b.c.) and the rein of the Roman Empire (752 b.c. to 1476 a.d.), the javelin was used as an offensive weapon. The auxiliary forces of the Roman army equipped two different types of soldiers with javelins. The Principles were armed with a pilum, a pseudo-javelin weighing as much as 4 kg and fitted with a lead ball to increase penetration, was not easily thrown. The Velites were armed with a lighter, more modern day javelin which was believed to be the factor that stopped Hannibal’s elephants in battle.1,2,3

The early javelin, made of olive wood, was much lighter than its predecessor the spear. This allowed it to be thrown from long distances rather than thrust into the enemy or prey. This became pivotal because it allowed for long distance attacks against enemies rather than hand to hand combat. In 1780, production of the javelin changed to hickory wood. This was the standard until 1953 when Franklin Held invented the hollow javelin. Currently, however, it is made of metal.4

The sport made its ancient Olympic debut at the 708 b.c. Games. Since the ancient Games were used to test and demonstrate prowess at war, the sport was an obvious choice to include since it was used as a war weapon. At the time, the javelin was involved in two events, one for distance and the other for accuracy. The event was debuted in the modern Olympic Games in the year 1908. However, it was not until the 1932 Games that women were allowed to compete in the event. Since then, Finland, Cuba, and Great Britain have stood out in the event with consistently successful javelin throwers.5

Currently, track and field is the third most popular high school sport, only exceeded by football and basketball.6 During the 2009/2010 school year, 16,011 high schools had track and field teams. There were a total of 1,011,673 high school students who participated in the sport, consisting of 572,123 boys and 469,177 girls.7

During the 2015/2016 track and field ranks second to football in boys participants with 591,133, and remains the most popular sport for girls with 485,969 participants.

Like any other sport, the ...

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