Javelin Throw Debate

As a javelin enthusiast and a new member of the throwholics team I would like to begin by opening a debate.

The lightest of the throwing events saw its golden age (post 1986 redesign) during the 1990’s. Anyone of our followers who can remember these glory days will no doubt remember the likes of Steve Backley, Raymond Hecht, Aki Parviainen not to mention the legend that is Jan Zelezny. How many of you recall that fantastic night in 1996, where Zelezny, wearing his red tights threw an impossible distance, the javelin seemingly in the air for an eternity and still it kept going? A World Record; 98.48m (323' 1") and only 152cm (4' 11") off the magical 100m (328' 1") mark.

Jump forward 17 years. Science and education has improved our training regimes, our dietry plans, our attitude to supplements, rest periods, lifting and conditioning. In a time where the majority of track world records are being set or at least being tested, the javelin event (and other throwing events) appear to be going backwards (London 2012, Keshorn Walcott gold medal with 84.58m (277' 5") or Daegu 2011, Matthias de Zordo gold medal with 86.27m (283')).

Since 2002 no thrower has thrown over 92m (301' 10"), the top 5 distances ever thrown (post 1986) were thrown over 10 years ago. What has happened to the throwing events, not just the javelin but all throws. Are we seeing a time where the javelin event is experiencing a slump, or during the 1990’s especially, were we spoiled by a super human group of throwers? Should we expect to see year on year comparable throwing distances if not an increase in them, (look to the 100m (328' 1") to see an example of this) or should we accept the fact that certain generations are going to be better than others, despite the advancement in training, science and nutrition?

Harry Pugh


Replies 5

  • This idea seems interesting, but I don't feel like you've fully done your research... Looking at the furthest throw of a year or the winning mark of a big meet (even if its the olympic games or world champs...) seems like the wrong way to analyze and compare trends over years, especially if you pick and choose which meets to consider... Yes, Mr. Walcott won the past Olympics with the second shortest winning mark since the specification change, but remember in the olympic games before that Thorkildsen won with 90m+ (the olympic record, in fact). And yes, De Zordo won the last world champs at 86m, but remember Thorkildsen won the previous year's Euro Champs with 88m and the previous world champs at 89m+. The winning mark of the world championship in 2007? Pitkämäki at 90m+. 2006? 88m+. 2005? 87m. 2004? 86m. 2003? 85m. 2002? 88m. This info doesn't do much more than suggest people didn't compete as well as they might have in a few recent meets... I suspect comparing the 1990s with the 2000s would find some interesting facts, but to really investigate that question you'd have to look more deeply - at least at the top 20 throws each year... Also, the "top 5 distances ever thrown" were all thrown by Zelezny. Take him out of the picture and then analyze the field - you'll find interesting things.

  • During the 27 seasons since the rule change there are 25 javelin throwers on the IAAF list with lifetime personal bests of 88 meters or longer.

    The lifetime PB years of these throwers are fairly evenly spread over the first 14 seasons and the last 13 seasons.

    During the first 14 seasons (1986-1999) 13 javelin throwers achieved their lifetime PB.

    During the last 13 seasons (2000-2012) 12 javeling throwers achieved their lifetime PB*.

    *and a few will have the chance to improve even more in 2013.

  • When comparing the olympic seasons of 1988-2012 one can find the following:

    1988: 5 throwers over 85,96 m
    1992: 5 throwers over 87,26 m
    1996: 5 throwers over 88,12 m
    2000: 5 throwers over 89,85 m
    2004: 5 throwers over 86,86 m
    2008: 5 throwers over 86,88 m
    2012: 5 throwers over 86,31 m

    So there seems to be a curve peeking around year 2000.

    To find the answers to the questions asked in the article one should probably ask the javelin throwers of that age. One possible answer could be that the extremely high level of performance of Jan Zelesný helped the others see what was possible and what they had to do in order to be in contention for the gold.

  • Like Axel Harstedt said , Zelezny pushed the other guys to their limits to achieve what they have done, knowing that to win gold, you need to beat him , If i put my self in their shoes, I would probably train like a machine ! but , generally speaking , there are ups and downs in every event , after Zelezny and Backley , came Thorkildsen and Pitkamaki ... a new generation is coming and who knows what is inside the box !

  • I think the good throwers of our time are just getting older... Pitkamaki and Thorkildsen are the only throwers with a mark over 90m who are still throwing... and they are struggling to hit 80.. so either they are getting older and the new generation of throwers still need experience (wallcott is like 20???) OR iaaf recently banned some sort of substance that was increasing their ability to throw..

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