Pre-Olympic Javelin Throw Records:
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.
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.
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.