Hammer throwing, using actual sledgehammers, was popular for centuries in the British Isles. The modern version of the sport, employing a 16-pound steel ball at the end of a wire, joined the Olympics in 1900 on the men's side. The Olympics' egalitarian trend came to fruition in 2000, when women were permitted to fling a smaller (8 pounds, 14-¾ ounces) version of the hammer.
About the Olympic Hammer Throw:
Like the javelin, hammer throwing is not as common as shot putting or discus throwing among young competitors - for obvious safety reasons - so many aren't familiar with this sport. Indeed, if you've attended a local Highland Games event, the only hammer throwing you've seen probably involved men in kilts tossing real hammers. Learn more about the sport of hammer throwing with these links.
Olympic Hammer Throw History:
Some believe that hammer throwing evolved from an Irish weight-throwing contest. So it's fitting that Ireland-bred throwers dominated the early Olympics. Irish-born Americans won the first five Olympic events, starting with three-time champion John Flanagan. Ireland's Pat O'Callaghan then won twice (1928-32). Eastern Europeans have dominated since 1948, but Japan's Koji Murofushi won Asia's first hammer throw gold in 2004. Read more about hammer's history below.
Action Image Gallery:
Witness hammer throwers in action in the following gallery.
Take a look at the top 2012 Olympic hammer throw hopefuls, from the U.S. and around the world, then catch up with some familiar names from the past with these selections.