Pre-World War II:
Swedes and Finns exchanged the title back and forth in the 1920s, beginning with Sweden’s Gunnar Lindstrom in 1924, then Finland’s Eino Penttila in 1927 and Erik Lundqvist of Sweden in 1928. Lundqvist threw the first recorded 70-meter toss, reaching 71.01/232-11 just after he earned an Olympic gold medal. Matti Jarvinen of Finland, a future Olympic javelin champion, set four world records in 1930, topping out at 72.93/239-3. He extended his world mark once in 1932, three times in 1933, once in 1934 and once in 1936, topping out at 77.23/253-4. Another Finn, Yrjo Nikkanen, broke the world mark twice in 1938, reaching 78.70/258-2 in a meet in Kotka, Finland.
Post-War Javelin Records:
The javelin record inched upward three times in the next eight years, as American Albert Cantello (1959), Italy’s Carlo Lievore (1961) and Norway’s Terje Pederson (1964) all advanced the record, which reached 87.12/285-9. Pedersen then zoomed past the 90-meter barrier later in 1964, throwing the spear 91.72/300-11 in Oslo.
Janis Lusis of the Soviet Union nudged the mark upward just prior to winning the 1968 Olympic gold. Finland’s Jorma Kinnunen raised the mark to 92.70/304-1 the following year, but Lusis regained the record in 1972 with a throw measuring 93.80/307-8. West Germany’s Klaus Wolfermann, the 1972 Olympic champion, broke the world mark in 1973 and held it for three years before Hungary’s Miklos Nemeth set a new standard at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, reaching 94.58/310-3. Fellow Hungarian Ference Paragi advanced the record to 96.72/317-3 in 1980. Tom Petranoff became the third American to hold the world javelin record when he reached 99.72/327-2 in 1983, then East Germany’s Uwe Hohn shattered the 100-meter line with a throw measuring 104.80/343-10 in 1984.
The New Javelin:
The world record was broken four times in 1990 – twice by Great Britain’s Steve Backley and once each by Zelezny and Patrik Boden of Sweden. Seppo Raty of Finland then beat the mark twice in 1991. Later in 1991, however, the IAAF banned the serrated tails added to some javelins the previous year, which made the spears more aerodynamic. All record-breaking throws made with serrated tails were wiped from the books, so the mark fell from Raty’s 96.96/318-1 to Backley’s 89.58/293-10. Backley improved the mark to 91.46/300-0 in 1992, but Zelezny took the record back with a throw measuring 95.54/313-5 in 1993. Zelezny improved the mark later in 1993, then again in 1996, when he set the current world record of 98.48/323-1. Zelezny was a month short of 30 years old when he set his final record, at a meet in Jena, Germany.