Olympic records in throwing events - going the distance with a spear, disc, hammer and ball

Some records in throwing events have remained unbroken for more than 30 years.

By Aarish Ansari
Picture by 2012 Getty Images

Throwing events are among the oldest competitions in the world and consequently found a place in the modern Olympics since the very beginning over a century ago.

While discus throw and shot put were part of the inaugural Games in 1896, hammer throw and javelin throw were added to the quadrennial event in 1900 and 1908, respectively.

As part of the track and field programme, medals will be up for grabs in both men’s and women’s categories of all four events at Tokyo 2020.

Here, we glance through the Olympic records of the four throwing events.

Javelin throw Olympic records

Men’s javelin throw

Andreas Thorkildsen (Norway) - 90.57m at 2008 Beijing Olympics (August 23, 2008)

Norwegian athlete Andreas Thorkildsen won the javelin throw competition at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing with a commanding performance right from the start. However, it was the then defending Olympic champion’s fifth throw of 90.57m that broke the eight-year-old record set by Czech legend Jan Zelezny. The effort fetched Andreas Thorkildsen his second successive Olympic gold.

Women’s javelin throw

Osleidys Menendez (Cuba) - 71.53m at 2004 Athens Olympics (August 27, 2004)

A year after settling for bronze at the Sydney Games in 2000, Cuba’s Osleidys Menendez went on to break the women’s javelin throw world record in 2001, becoming the first female to cross the 70-metre mark with the new javelin specifications.

Osleidys Menendez then broke the Olympic record at Athens 2004, with an impressive first throw in the final that reached 71.53m - just one centimetre short of her world record. The Cuban’s throw was almost six metres better than the silver medallist.

Discus throw Olympic records

Men’s discus throw

Virgilijus Alekna (Lithuania) - 69.89m at 2004 Athens Olympics (August 23, 2004)

Lithuanian legend Virgilijus Alekna came to Athens in 2004 as the defending Olympic champion and was the top contender, having won the world title in 2003.

The 6 ft 7 inch Alekna finished second in the qualifying round and continued his impressive run throughout the event.

The then Olympic record holder Lars Reidel was also competing at the event. But Virgilijus Alekna’s first throw (69.89m) in the final broke Reidel’s record. The Lithuanian had originally finished second behind Hungary’s Robert Fazekas but a doping violation from the Hungarian meant Alekna defended his Olympic gold.

Women’s discus throw

Martina Hellmann (East Germany) - 72.30m at 1988 Seoul Olympics (September 29, 1988)

The women’s discipline at Seoul 1988 saw fierce competition between two East German athletes - Martina Hellmann and Diana Gansky - as both women crossed the 70m mark. But it was Hellmann that reigned supreme and broke the Olympic record twice in the final.

Martina Hellmann topped her group in the qualifier and her first throw of 71.84m in the final broke Evelin Jahl’s Olympic record set in 1980. Then, with her fourth throw of 72.30m, Hellmann broke the record again and finished the Seoul Olympics with top honours as Diana Gansky won silver with 71.88m.

Hammer throw Olympic records

Men’s hammer throw

Sergey Litvinov (URS) - 84.80m at 1988 Seoul Olympics (September 26, 1988)

Representing the Soviet Union, Sergey Litvinov pipped compatriots Yuriy Sedykh and Juri Augustovitch Tamm to win gold at the Olympic Games in 1988. En route, Litvinov also broke Sedykh’s Olympic record.

Sergey Litvinov bettered the previous Olympic record in all six of his throws and set new records twice. The Soviet’s first throw of 84.76 shattered the previous best of 81.80m by quite a margin and his penultimate attempt breached the new record, getting to 84.80m.

The Soviets dominated the event at the 1988 Olympics, with Sergey getting gold and Yuriy Sedykh and Juri Tamm winning silver and bronze, respectively.

Women’s hammer throw

Anita Wlodarczyk (Poland) - 82.29m at 2016 Rio Olympics (August 15, 2016)

Polish international Anita Wlodarczyk is the first and only woman to cross the 80m barrier in hammer throw history and is considered the greatest female athlete of her sport.

Coming to Rio 2016, Anita Wlodarczyk was the favourite to win gold since she held the world record, Olympic record and was also the reigning world champion.

The 2012 Olympic gold medallist started her Rio campaign by topping the qualification and broke her Olympic record in the second throw of the final. The throw was enough to fetch Anita Wlodarczyk a successive gold medal but she bettered her performance with an Olympic and world record-breaking 82.29m in the next throw.

Two weeks later, Anita Wlodarczyk broke the world record again with a superlative 82.98m throw at the Skolimowska Memorial in Warsaw.

Shot put Olympic records

Men’s shot put

Ryan Crouser (USA) - 23.30m at Tokyo 2020 Olympics (August 5, 2021)

At Tokyo 2020, USA’s Ryan Crouser repeated his heroics from Rio 2016 and won the gold medal, breaking the Olympic record in both editions.

Ryan Crouser produced six stellar throws, of which five were enough to win the gold. The Oregon-born athlete was the only competitor to breach the 23m mark in the final and set a new Olympic record of 23.30m in his final attempt.

Women’s shot put

Ilona Slupianek (East Germany) - 22.41m at 1980 Moscow Olympics (July 24 1980)

Ilona Slupianek broke the world record twice just two months ahead of the Olympics in July 1980.

During the Moscow Games in 1980, Ilona Slupianek won the gold medal by surpassing the previous women’s shot put Olympic record held by Ivanka Khristova of Bulgaria, with a 22.41m put in the final - a distance that has not been bettered to this day.


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