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Women's Javelin Throw World Records

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Women's Javelin Throw World Records

Petra Felke threw the old-style javelin 80 meters.

Allsport UK/Getty Images
The javelin throw is a fairly old sport in modern women’s track and field history, as women began competing in the event around the early 1900s. Javelin is the second-oldest women’s Olympic throwing event, having entered Olympic competition in 1932, four years after the discus, but 16 years before the shot put and 68 years before the hammer throw.

Pre-Olympic Javelin Throw Records:

During its pre-Olympic years, different organizations sponsored women’s track and field events, and different jurisdictions compiled women’s track and field statistics, so accurate world records are difficult to determine. It’s clear that most, if not all of the top javelin throwers in the early 1920s were from Czechoslovakia. Marie Majzlikova threw the spear 24.95 meters (81 feet, 10 inches) on July 22, 1922, then four other Czech women threw progressively farther over the next four years. Frantiska Vlachova and Kamila Olmerova both recorded throws measuring 27.30/89-6 in 1923, a distance that wasn’t matched for three years.

Americans took charge of the javelin lists in 1926-7. Pauline Hascup recorded the first known 30-meter toss, flying past that then-magic mark to reach 33.07/108-6 in June 1926. Fellow American Lillian Copeland passed the 35-meter mark and eventually reached 38.21/125-4 in February 1927.

Javelin supremacy soon moved back across the Atlantic, to Germany, where it remained almost exclusively until 1932. Germans Guschi Hargus and Elisabeth Schumann traded the unoffical world mark back and forth in 1928-29, then fellow German Thea Kurze increased the standard to 39.01/127.11 in June of 1930.

Javelin honors went back and forth between Germany and the U.S. in the early 1930s. American Babe Didrikson, the initial women’s Olympic javelin champion, was also the first known woman to crack the 40-meter mark, throwing 40.68/133-5 in July 1930, but Schumann threw 42.32/138.10 just a month later, then raised the mark to 44.64/146-5 in June 1932. Later in June, however, American Nan Gindele threw 46.75/153-4 in Chicago, a plateau that wasn’t challenged for six years. By that time, the IAAF had become the supervisory body for women’s track and field worldwide.

IAAF Era:

Another German, Erika Matthes, threw 47.80/156-9 in 1938. After the World War II years, progress continued as Lyudmila Anokina of the Soviet Union unleashed the first recorded 50-meter throw, at 50.27/164-11, in September 1947, although countrywoman Klavdiya Mayuchaya quickly edged past her with a toss measuring 50.32/165-1. Another Soviet thrower, Natalya Smirnitskaya, gained the now-official world record by throwing 53.41/175-2 in 1949. Her mark stood until Nadezhda Konyayeva, also from the USSR, broke the record three times in 1954, reaching 55.48/182-0 in August.

The Soviets briefly lost their hold on the record in 1958, when Dana Zatopkova of Czechoslovakia (55.73/182-10), then Australia’s Anna Pazera (57.40/188-3) topped the all-time list, but Birute Zalogaityte put the USSR back on top late in the year by throwing 57.49/188-7. Elvira Ozolina was the next great Soviet thrower, breaking the record four times from 1960-64, shattering the 60-meter mark and reaching 61.38/201-4 in 1964. Yelena Gorchakova improved the record to 62.40/204-8 later in 1964, a mark that stood for eight years.

Ewa Gryziecka of Poland ended the Soviet dynasty by throwing 62.70/205-8 on June 11, 1972, but she only held the record for a few minutes before East Germany’s Ruth Fuchs reached 65.06/213-5. Fuchs dominated women’s javelin in the 1970s, earning Olympic gold medals in 1972 and 1976, and setting a total of six world records. Her reign was interrupted by American Kate Schmidt, who threw a world record 69.32/227-5 in 1977 and held the world mark for almost two years. But Fuchs regained the top spot and eventually reached 69.96/229-6 in 1980.

Tatyana Biryulina of the Soviet Union threw the first official 70-meter toss, reaching 70.08/229-11 in July 1980. The record improved steadily over the next few years, with Bulgaria’s Antoaneta Todorova and Sofia Sakorafa of Greece breaking the mark once each, and Finland’s Tiina Lillak beating it twice. East Germany’s Petra Felke passed the 75-meter mark twice during a June 4, 1985 meet in Schwerin, reaching 75.40/247-4. Great Britain’s Fatima Whitbread surged by Felke at 77.44/254-0 in 1986, but Felke broke the record two more times, reaching 80 meters even (262-5) in 1988.

Re-Designed Javelin:

Felke, the 1988 Olympic champion, was the final recognized women’s record-holder before the javelin was redesigned for women in the late 1990s. The spear’s center of gravity was moved forward, causing the nose to drop faster and limiting the javelin’s distance so it wouldn’t fly out of standard stadium throwing areas. Greece’s Mirela Manjani-Tzelili was the first recognized record-holder with the new javelin, on a toss measuring 67.09/220-1 at the 1999 World Championships in Spain. Norway’s Trine Solberg-Hattestad then enjoyed a big year 2000 as she broke the record twice, topping out at 69.48/227-11 at the Bislett Games, then earned an Olympic gold in Sydney.

The 2004 Olympic champion, Osleidys Menendez of Cuba, set world javelin marks in 2001 and 2005, peaking at 71.70/235-2 at the Helsinki World Championships. Shortly after Barbora Spotakova took the gold at the 2008 Olympics, the Czech Republic thrower set the latest world record with a toss measuring 72.28/237-1 on her first attempt during the World Athletic Final in Stuttgart, Germany. Interestingly, no women’s world javelin throwing record has ever been set at the Olympics. Felke owned the Olympic record of 74.68/245-0 with the old javelin, while Menendez holds the recognized current mark at 71.53/234-8.

Read more about the javelin:
Illustrated Javelin Throwing Technique
Learning the Javelin Throw
Olympic Javelin Throw Rules
Women's Javelin Olympic Medalists

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