The Javelin Throw Goes 21st Century

One of the oldest Olympic contests has gotten a major technical upgrade, after thousands of years. The javelin throw is one of the most iconic events to take place during the Games. It has been vied for since 1906 in the modern era and for a millennium in the ancient Olympics. Part of track and field, competition in the venerable spear toss gets underway in Beijing today, and the athletes will have new javelins in hand that should increase the distance of their throws.

History tells us the ancient Greeks competed in flinging the javelin as far back as 3000 years ago. It was practical exercise, because the ability to throw a spear accurately at great distance was a much-prized ability for hunters and warriors. In recent times, though, the javelin competition has been restricted to the infield of sports stadiums. After the 2004 Athens Games, the International Amateur Athletic Federation decided that, in addition to metal and fiberglass, javelins could be made of new carbon-fiber materials.

At the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing, some contestants will be throwing the new OTE Composite FX Carbon/Aluminum Javelin from Gill Athletics, of Champaign, Ill. According to the company, the combination of metal and carbon-fiber composites enables javelin throwers to achieve consistent distances of over 90 meters (the contemporary world record is 98.48 m) using the Composite FX.

The firm boasts on its Internet site that its javelin "does make a difference â'¿ with its superior vibration dampening qualities and flight characteristics."

We'll find out later today whether it has what it takes to fly farther than the other spears at this year's modern Olympics.

Related Stories

Tech Talk

IEEE Spectrum’s general technology blog, featuring news, analysis, and opinions about engineering, consumer electronics, and technology and society, from the editorial staff and freelance contributors.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Tech Alert newsletter and receive ground-breaking technology and science news from IEEE Spectrum every Thursday.

Advertisement
Advertisement