The History of Discus Throwing

The sport of discus throwing dates back to ancient Greece, where the sport was prized for its display of an athlete’s precision and coordination, combined with his physical strength. Discus was one of the earliest games played in the Olympiad, along with other similar sports, such as the javelin. Still a widely practiced competitive sport today, discus throwing hasn’t changed dramatically over the past few thousand years.


Discus throwing emerged in ancient Greece around 708 B.C., when the sport was added to the 18th Olympiad, says Olympia Greece 2. Discus was part of the pentathlon, which also included jumping, wrestling, running and javelin. Shaped like a flying saucer, the ancient Greeks made discuses from lead, bronze, iron or stone, according to Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University 1. The discuses were made in varying weights, depending on whether the competitions consisted of men or boys. The typical discus weighed about 4 ½ to 13 lbs. or 2 to 6 kg and measured about 8¼ to 13¼ inches or approximately 21 to 34 cm, notes the International Association of Athletics Federations 3.


By 632 B.C., the Olympic Games in ancient Greece were extended to one week, and the game of discus throwing was one of more than 50 events in the Olympics by 500 B.C., says Olympia Greece 2. Discus throwing was included in the modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, according to the International Association of Athletics Federations 3. Discus throwers stood on a pedestal that was about 24 inches by 27½ inches. The following year, the U.S. held a discus-throwing event that utilized a circle about 7 feet in diameter. In 1907, the discus itself was standardized in the competitive sport to about 4½ lbs. or 2 kg and 8 2/3 inches or 22 cm in diameter, and the discus-throwing circle increased to more than 8 feet across by 1908. The modern-day concrete throwing circle wasn’t introduced until 1954.


Throughout the early 1900s, different styles of discus throwing evolved as the sport gained worldwide popularity, according to the International Association of Athletics Federations 3. Single-hand and both-hands competitions were developed during this time, along with the Nordic swinging-throw style. In 1926, Clarence Houser introduced the modern-day style of skipping and turning before releasing the discus. American women joined the discus-throwing sport competitively in 1914, using a discus weighing about 3 1/3 lbs. or 1 ½ kg. In 1928, the Olympic Games began using a 2 1/5-lb. or 1-kg standard discus for women.

Modern Day

Although the pedestals, throwing circles and discus sizes and weights have changed over the many centuries since the ancient Greeks first practiced discus throwing, the sport hasn’t changed substantially from its roots, according to Tufts University 1. Discus throwing still contains the same basic objective – to throw the discus farther than your opponents. Today, discus throwing is an official sport with competitions throughout the world, notes the International Association of Athletics Federations 3. But discus’s origins and modern-day competitions in the Olympic Games will always be heavily associated with the sport.

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