Athletics Javelin Throw Event – Why there is a ‘new’ and an ‘old’ world records?

While innovation progressed, biomechanic studies showed that former Javelin devices had special aerodynamics properties that enhanced the lenght of throws but also resulted in several ‘flat landing’ and complaints of athletes when the throw was considered invalid by the judges. In that era, the men’s javelin throw World Record reached 104.80 metres and was achieved (1984) by Uwe Hohn of the former Germany Democratic Republic (GDR). Having this in mind, and together with safety concerns (there was the effective danger of the Javellin breaching the landing pitch’s dimension), the IAAF imposed in 1986 measures to modify the Javellin’s aerodynamics.

The javelin was redesigned so that the centre of gravity was moved 4 cm forward, further away from the centre of pressure, and the tip was also modified to be more blunt and less aerodynamic. All these factors combined so that the javelin had an increased downward pitching moment. This brings the nose down earlier, reducing the flight distance by around 10% but also causing the javelin to stick in the ground more consistently. Modifications that manufacturers made to recover some of the lost distance, by increasing tail drag, were outlawed at the end of 1991 and marks made with such modifications were removed from the record books.

The men’s official World Record (under the 1986 changes) belongs to Jan Zelezny of the Czech Republic with a mark of 98.48 metres (1996). As for the case of women, similar alterations were also made in 1996 and previous marks were also erased from record books.

The women’s official World Record belongs to Barbora Spotáková with 72.28 metres (2008). Before that, using the ‘old javelin’, Petra Felke of the former GDR had reached the 80 metres mark (1988).

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