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.

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