The Thrower's Page
The origin of the javelin throw is usually attributed to the ancient Greek olympics, but many cultures have a long throwing spear for use in hunting wild game or for targeting enemy soldiers in battle.
In the ancient Greek Olympics, the cord grip also had a thong, which was two loops of the cord. The thrower put the tips of his first two fingers in the loose loops; one on either side of the javelin. During the release of the javelin, at the follow through, the thrower pulls the javelin through the two fingers attached by the thong even after the hand was no longer touching the javelin. The javelin was thrown for distance in the ancient Olympics. The javelin throw was revived in the modern Olympics (starting in 1896), but without the thong.
The rulebook says that the javelin is constructed of three parts: the head, the shaft, and the grip. The head has always been metal. The shaft was traditionally solid wood, but modern javelins are hollow steel. The grip consisted of leather wraps and a thong, but the modern grip is a cord wound tightly around the middle of the shaft. Throwers get most of their grip at the back seam between the edge of the cord and the shaft.
In 1986, the center of gravity of the men's javelin was moved forward 4 cm to make the javelin's nose drop down faster. This accomplished two objectives: it eliminated flat landings, making the javelin both easier to spot and safer. It also made the distances shorter so that long throws can be acommodated in the infield. A similar change occured in the women's javelin in 2001.
All about the "Spanish-style" javelin throw technique.
Caution: the spanish style of throwing the javelin can be dangerous to those around you. No cage or netting has been designed for it, and there is a chance that the javelin will slip out of your hand unpredictably and result in grossly foul throws in an arc 90 degrees to either side of the intended direction of throw. For that reason, All persons present should stand well behind the thrower, or well beyond the distance capable of the thrower. It is unsafe to stand even well to the side of the sector within the thrower's range.
To throw a javelin Spanish-style, first apply a coating of grease, margarine or other slippery substance to the javelin tail from the back of the cord to the tail. Also grease your throwing hand. Wrap your hand around the javelin in an overhand grip, just below the edge of the cord. Your index finger should be against the rear edge of the cord, but you should be gripping the javelin on the metal immediately behind the cord.
First, throw the javelin like a discus from a stand. Bring the jav back and wrap it around your body so that the tail is across your back. As your arm comes around, the javelin tail pivots around your back where it is in contact with your back. At the release, squeeze your grip. The jav squirts out of your hand like a giant watermelon seed. The javelin may wobble upon release, but if it is a long throw, it will stabilize during the high point of the flight. The javelin thrown in this style usually does not spin on its long axis.
Once you have mastered the release, throw the jav with a running South African. As you go through the turn, keep the jav back with the tail across your back. As you pull through, the tail brushes/pivots against your back/side.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not that difficult to throw the javelin straight using this technique. It is probably less difficult to throw straight than discus because you are taking a straight runup, which establishes your horizontal direction.
The IAAF added restrictions to the javelin throwing style in the 1950s when a retired Basque discus thrower (Felix Erausquin) obtained 100 meters using this style, greatly exceeding the existing world record. The throwing style was restricted to an arm-over-the-shoulder delivery and no 360-degree turn from the direction of the throw. The IAAF cited safety concerns for prohibiting this technique.
But also, all the discus throwers (in fact, sub-elite discus throwers who had the desire and ingenuity to develop the technique) were beating the "real" javelin throwers and breaking their records, causing animosity. The decision to ban it was affirmed after a few long sector fouls.
I am only able to throw the javelin 120 feet (36m) regular style, but I can easily throw over 200 feet (60m) with the Spanish style.