Rules for Throwing a Javelin

Man with arm extended about to release javelin, low angle

The javelin throw is one of several events held during a track and field competition. The event was first introduced in the Greek Games of 708 B.C., with competitors throwing spear-like objects made of olive wood. Today’s athletes throw javelins made of metal, wood or fiberglass. Using speed, proper technique and strength, competitors try to win with the farthest throw. Only throws that follow specific rules and regulations are declared legal and eligible for measurement.

Javelin Requirements

The rules of the International Amateur Athletic Federation state that the javelin must consist of three main parts, the head, shaft and a cord grip. The shaft can be solid or hollow and has an attached metal head that ends in a point. The grip must have a uniform thickness and cannot exceed the diameter of the shaft by more than 8 millimeters. The minimum weight of the javelin for men is 800 grams and for women, 600 grams. The overall length for men is 2.6 to 2.7 meters and for women, 2.2 to 2.3 meters.

Throwing Requirements

The javelin can only be held with one hand on the grip with the little finger nearest to the pointed metal end. Competitors are not allowed to use any special aids to help throw the javelin. Taping the hand, fingers or thumb is not allowed. An exception is made if the athlete has an open wound. In this case, the athlete must show the taping to the head judge before the event begins. Using chalk for a better grip is permitted. Throwing the javelin sidearm is not allowed. It must be thrown over the shoulder or upper arm. The last contact with the javelin is with the grip. Until the competitor has released the javelin, he is not allowed to turn around completely so that his back faces the direction of the throw.

Throwing Fouls

A variety of mistakes made by the athlete can result in a foul. A foul occurs if any part of the competitor’s body touches any of the lines marking the throwing area or the ground outside the throwing area before the javelin has been released. If the athlete does not hold the javelin by the cord grip, it is a foul. The throw is ruled a foul if the pointed, metal end is not the first part to contact the ground or the javelin lands on or outside the lines of the sector. The sector is an angled area extending out from the throwing area.

Measuring the Throw

Throwing distances are measured and rounded down to the nearest centimeter. The measurement is taken from the where the metal tip first strikes the ground. The field judge holds the zero end of the tape at the mark in the ground, pulls the tape back to the inside edge of the throwing arc, takes a precise reading and records the distance.