Who is the only athlete to have thrown a javelin over 100 metres in competition?

A world record for the men’s javelin was first ratified by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in 1912 and, notwithstanding changes to the specification of the projectile, just one athlete has thrown a javelin beyond the 100-metre mark in competition. The athlete in question was East German Uwe Hohn, who, four days after his twenty-second birthday, on July 20, 1984, threw the javelin a distance of 104.80 metres. In so doing, he smashed the previous record, 99.72 metres, set by American Thomas ‘Tom’ Petranoff on May 15, 1983, and hastened the introduction of a new javelin design, which was eventually implemented in April, 1986.

Petranoff, himself, had sparked debate about the design and flight characteristics of the javelin but, by the time Hohn obliterated his mark, the new specification had been officially proposed. Prior to the new specification, it was often unclear if the javelin had landed tip first, which it must for the throw to be legal, and male athletes were in danger of throwing the javelin beyond the boundary of the landing sector.

Indeed, during the XXII Olympic Day of Athletics at the Friedrich Ludwig Jahn Sportpark in East Berlin, Hohn came within a metre or so of the running track beyond the javelin landing sector. In scenes reminiscent of Nadia Comăneci at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada, the manual scoreboard, which wasn’t equipped to show more than four digits, proudly displayed ‘0408’. Any confusion was short-lived, though, as Hohn was surrounded by photographers wishing to capture his ‘eternal world record’ for posterity.

The centre of gravity of the javelin was subsequently moved forward by four centimetres, such that the tip descended earlier and more steeply, thereby shortening throwing distances and eliminating dubious, ‘flat’ landings. The current world record, 98.48 metres, was set by Czech Jan Železný on May 25, 1996, but since the specification change, no-one else has come close to the triple-figure mark.

Who invented the ice skate?

The ice skate is definitely prehistoric in origin, dating back to the first, second, third or even fourth millenium BCE. As such, it is impossible to identify a single inventor, but archeological evidence points toward Northern Europe and, in particular, the Scandinavian Peninsula, as the birthplace of skates and skating.

Early ice skates were fashioned from animal bones, often from horses or cattle, pierced with holes and tethered to the feet with leather straps. They did not have a blade, so they relied on residual fat on the bones to reduce friction; skaters propelled themselves along by pushing on the ice with a stick while keeping their legs almost straight, for balance.

Bone ice stakes remained largely unchanged for millenia. Indeed, in the preface to his ‘Vita Sancti Thomae’, or ‘Life of St. Thomas’, which was written in 1173-74, William FitzStephen wrote, ‘…if the moors in Finsbury and Moorfield freeze over, children from London play. Some of the children have attached bones to their ankles, and carry well-worn sticks.’

The forerunner of the modern ice skate evolved in the Netherlands during the Late Middle Ages. A wooden footplate and a double-edged iron, or steel, blade replaced bone and allowed skaters to propel themselves using their legs, thereby creating the now-familiar, smooth skating movement.

Later significant stages in the evolution of the modern ice skate were the introduction of the all-steel skate, by Philadelphia businessman Edward Bushnell, in 1850 and the development of the two-plate, all-metal blade, by the so-called ‘Father of Figure Skating’, New York ballet dancer turned figure skater Jackson Haines, in 1856. The first ‘closed toe’ blade made from a single piece of steel, thereby allowing skates to become stronger, but lighter, was invented by Minnesota sporting goods retailer John Strauss in 1914.

Was tug of war ever an Olympic sport?

The short answer is yes, it was, for five consecutive Olympic Games in the early twentieth century. Indeed, the governing body of the sport, the Tug of War International Federation (TWIF), which was founded in 1960, states that its primary objective is ‘to expedite our acceptance by the International Olympic Committee as a sport within the programme of the Olympic Games.’

Tug of war originally made its Olympic debut at the Games of the II Olympiad in Paris on July 16, 1900. In the absence of the United States’ team, which withdrew because of scheduling issues, the competition consisted of a single, best-of-three match between Racing Club de Paris and a hastily assembled Scandinavian team, featuring three athletes apiece from Denmark and Sweden. The combined Scandinavian team won the gold medal 2-0.

Four years later, in St. Louis, Missouri, six teams entered the tug of war competition, albeit four of them, including the gold, silver and bronze medallists, representing the home nation. At the 1908 Summer Olympics, in London, tug of war teams were increased in size to eight pulling members, from five or six, and nations were limited to a maximum of three teams apiece. Once again, the home nation dominated, with City of London Police beating Liverpool Police 2-0 in the gold medal match and Metropolitan Police walking over against Sweden in the bronze medal match.

Four years later still, at their home Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden gained revenge on a Great Britain team once again featuring members of City of London and Metropolitan Police, but no-shows by Austria, Bohemia and Luxembourg reduced the competition to just two, best-of-three matches. The proposed 1916 Summer Olympics, in Berlin, was cancelled due to World War I, but tug of war made one final appearance at the 1920 Summer Olympics, in Antwerp, with Great Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium winning the medals.

Is fishing a sport?

According to the Britannica Dictionary, a sport is ‘a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other’. Fishing, or angling, is the activity of catching or attempting to catch fish, freshwater or saltwater, from the wild for sport, recreation or food. So-called ‘sport fishing’ is usually done with a rod, reel, fishing line and ‘tackle’, in the form of hooks, weights and floats. As such, while opinions vary as to the level of physical exertion required, casting the line and retrieving it, when a fish is hooked, or continuously, in the case of fly fishing, inevitably involves some physical activity. Furthermore, in competitive sport fishing, anglers go head to head against each other for a variety of prize and awards, but are nonetheless governed by national rules, local byelaws and individual competition rules.

Thus, it is difficult to argue that any form of fishing in which anglers compete against each is anything but a sport. Indeed, the global governing body for sport fishing, the Confédération Internationale de la Pêche Sportive (CIPS), which was founded in Rome in 1922, is affiliated to the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF), formerly SportAccord, such that sport fishing is officially recognised as a sport.

Interestingly, the GAISF definition of sport includes a clause that reads ‘…sport should in no way be harmful to any living creatures’, which appears to be at odds with animal rights organisations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA argues that even ‘catch-and-release’ fishing causes fish pain, physical injury and physiological stress, which can ultimately lead to their demise when returned to the water.

Who invented curling?

Curling is a winter sport, typically played indoors on artificial ice-rinks, by two teams of four players. The object of the sport is to score points by sliding granite stones, or ‘rocks’, each of which weighs 19kg, or 44lb, across the playing surface, known as a curling ‘sheet’, to finish as close as possible to the centre of three concentric circles marked on the ice, known as the ‘house’. Each round, or ‘end’, of curling consists of eight stones for each team, with each player delivering two, while two team-mates brush, or sweep, the ice in front of the stone, if necessary, to make it slide further and straighter. The rotational spin of the stone may cause it to deviate, or ‘curl’, away from a straight line, which is where the name of the sport comes from.

Curling is believed to be one of the oldest team sport in the world, for all that its exact origin is unknown. Documentary evidence dating from c.1540 records a challenge between Gavin Hamilton, a representative of the Abbot of Paisley Abbey, in Renfrewshire in the Scottish Lowlands, and John Sclater, a junior monk. Likewise, the painting ‘Hunters in the Snow (Winter)’ by the Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder, which dates from 1565, depicts ice skating and other winter activities, one of which is almost certainly curling.

The national governing body for the sport of curling in Scotland, the Royal Caledonian Curling Club – which, nowadays, trades as Scottish Curling – was founded, as the ‘Grand Caledonian Curling Club’, in Edinburgh in 1838 and received royal approval from Queen Victoria four years later. By that stage, curling had already been exported to North America by Scottish émigrés, with the first curling club opening in Montreal, Canada in 1807. Curling became an Olympic sport at the first Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix, France in 1924, but was only recognised as such, retrospectively, by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2006.