Picture by Getty Images

Javelin throw: Rules, regulations and all you need to know

It has been part of the modern Olympic Games programme since 1908 for men, and 1932 for women
By Olympic Channel Writer

A brief history

Javelin is believed to have been introduced during the Ancient Olympic Games as part of the pentathlon in 708 BC. It was further divided into two competitions where one winner would be determined by the distance covered by the spear and the other for accuracy in hitting a target.

The art of throwing javelin-like poles re-emerged in Germany and Sweden in the 1870s. It was in Sweden that these poles were remodelled to look somewhat like the modern-day javelins. Soon the sport started spreading to other countries and rules began to evolve. Initially, javelins were thrown without a run-up and in the 1890s limited run-ups were introduced.

It has been part of the modern Olympic Games programme since 1908 for men, and 1932 for women.

Neeraj Chopra threw the world junior record at the IAAF World U20 Championship
Picture by Getty Images

How to throw a javelin

The concept of javelin dates back to primitive hunters who used to throw a spear to kill and gather food. Following that idea, an athlete uses one arm to throw a metal-tipped javelin as far as possible. There is a corded grip and the athlete must hold the equipment by it.

For the throw to be counted, they must not turn their back to the landing area at any stage until the throw and landing are completed. Further, the javelin must land tip first. The javelin need only make a mark on the ground and not stick in or 'break turf'. The athlete must also stay behind the foul line while throwing and the javelin must be above the shoulder throughout the throwing process.

Javelin Throw Runway

The runway should at least be 30m but if conditions permit then the length can be extended to 36.50m. The width of it is 4m. The throwing arc is marked with 8m radius at the end of the baseline.

Landing Sector

The landing sector is marked with arcs at specified intervals on a grass pitch at an angle of 28.96 degrees extending outwards from the arc at the end of the runway.

Javelin scoring system at Olympics

To put it simply, the athlete who throws the javelin the farthest throw wins.

If there is a tie, the person whose next best throw went the farthest wins. If still tied after this, then compare the third-best distance of the tied athletes and the athlete with the greatest third-best distance is awarded the higher place.

In general, no athlete shall have more than one trial (throw) in any one round. Where there are more than eight athletes, each athlete shall have three trials and the eight athletes with the best valid performances shall be permitted an additional three trials. However, where there are eight or fewer athletes, each athlete shall be allowed six trials.

In the Olympics, there is no limit to the number of athletes in the qualification round. Each athlete gets three trials and 12 athletes with the best throws qualify for the final round.

In the finals, the bottom four gets eliminated after the first three trials and the remaining get to try their luck for three more trials. The winner is decided taking into account the best of the six trials in the final round.

Throw Measurement

The Chief Judge presides over the whole event. There are two judges who verify if it is a fair trial.

After the throw has landed, one, or in some cases two, judges place a marker indicating the point from which the trial is to be measured. The measurement is made from where the tip lands, which is marked by a spike, to the inside edge of the arc along a straight line. The zero end of the tape is held at the spike and the tape is drawn from the center of the arc.

All measurements are made with a steel or fiberglass metre tape.

Each measurement is to the nearest centimetre below the distance thrown unless the reading is a whole centimetre.

However, if there is an electronic distance measurement system then the process is done digitally and the final length is the impact point at the scoring sector to the centre of the throwing arc.

Specifications of a javelin

A javelin has three parts, a head, a shaft, and a cord grip. The head is the pointed tip of the javelin. The shaft is made of metal, the portion following the head and terminating at the grip. It must weigh at least 800 grams and has to be between 2.6m and 2.7m for men. For women, it must weigh at least 600 grams and measure between 2.2m and 2.3 m in length. The cord grip is about 150mm and is at the centre of gravity of the javelin which is 0.9m from the javelin tip for men and 0.8m to 0.92 m for women.

Permitted taping

The taping must not assist the athlete and it must be checked by the chief judge prior to start. Taping two or more fingers together is not allowed. The use of gloves is not allowed.

Time allowed

A minute is allowed to complete a trial from the time his name is announced. A clock showing the remaining time left for a trial should be visible to the athlete. An official shall also raise a yellow flag to indicate during the final 15 seconds of the time allowed.


A throw without holding the javelin grip is deemed as a foul.

If the thrower turns completely around so that his/her back is towards the arc, it is a foul.

After stepping into the runway, if any part of the body touches the sidelines or the ground outside the runway it will be considered a foul.

While landing, if the head of the javelin touches the sector line or the ground outside it will not be counted.

If the athlete exceeds the time limit, it is a foul.

If the trial is a failure a red flag is raised. No indication for a valid trial.

Javelin Throw: World Record

Jan Zelezny is the current world record holder with a distance of 98.48 m. In fact the Czech international has the best three throws at 95.66 m and 95.54 m respectively. He is the only athlete to win three successive gold medals in javelin in the Olympics (1992, 1996, 2000). However, Uwe Hohn of East Germany threw 104.80 m in 1984, before the new specifications were introduced.

Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic holds the record in women's javelin with a throw of 72.28 m. The next two best distances are held by Osleidys Menendez of Cuba at 71.70 m and 71.54 m.

Best Javelin throwers from India

Neeraj Chopra and Shivpal Singh are the two premier javelin throwers in India and have already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.

With a throw of 87.86m at the ACNW League meeting in South Africa in January 2020, Chopra overtook the qualification mark of 85m. His personal best is 88.07 m at the national level and 88.06m at the international level, which helped him win gold at the 2018 Asian Games.

Whereas, Singh qualified for Tokyo by throwing 85.47m at the ACNW League Meeting in Potchefstroom, South Africa in March, 2020. The 24-year-old won gold in the Military World Games in Wuhan, China in October 2019 with an 83.33m throw. However, his personal best is 86.23m which won him a silver medal in Doha at the Asian Championship.

The other prominent javelin throwers in the country are Annu Rani, Rohit Yadav, and Rajinder Singh.