The origin of the javelin throw is obvious. The first throwers were primitive hunters seeking food. The first known competitive use of a javelin occurred in the ancient Greek Olympics, where the javelin throw was a part of the five-event pentathlon. The Greeks’ javelin included a thong attached to the cord grip. When the thrower gripped the javelin he placed two fingers in the thong, giving him greater control upon release. It is unclear, however, whether the Greeks threw the javelin for distance or accuracy.
Swedes and Finns dominated the early years of modern Olympic javelin throwing, winning the first six gold medals. Eric Lemming of Sweden is pictured here preparing for a throw during the second Olympic javelin competition, in 1912. Lemming won the initial event in 1908 and gained his second Olympic javelin gold in 1912.