Why don’t they call it the ‘ball and chain throw’?

The Olympic games are currently underway and I am ignoring it for many of the reasons Marcus Ranum writes about. In addition, I hate the fact that the TV presenters will endless hype some marquee event by saying it is “coming up shortly” when in fact they will string out the anticipation for an hour or more, using that time to inundate you with commercials.

But I did see an ad online for the hammer throw event and it struck me that what the woman was throwing was definitely not anything like a hammer, but consists of a sphere connected by a chain to a handle that the thrower grasped and used to whirl the sphere around before releasing it. The event seems to require massive strength, coupled with great balance and timing.

This article explains how this misleadingly named event came about.

Since 1866 the hammer throw has been a regular part of track-and-field competitions in Ireland, Scotland, and England. The English standardized the event in 1875 by establishing the weight of the hammer at 7.2 kg (16 pounds) and its length at 1,067.5 mm (later changed to a maximum 1,175 mm [46.3 inches]) and by requiring that it be thrown from a circle 2.135 metres (7 feet) in diameter.

The men’s event has been included in the Olympic Games since 1900; the women’s hammer throw made its Olympic debut in 2000. Early hammers had forged-iron heads and wooden handles, but the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) now requires use of a wire-handled spherical weight. The ball is of solid iron or other metal not softer than brass or is a shell of such metal filled with lead or other material. The handle is spring steel wire, with one end attached to the ball by a plain or ball-bearing swivel and the other to a rigid two-hand grip by a loop. The throwing circle is protected by a C-shaped cage for the safety of officials and onlookers.

Here is a video addressing this same question.


  1. says

    I believe the issue -- says the guy who once threw a 12lb sledgehammer while splitting logs -- is that the hammer’s head is so heavy the handle will rotate quite quickly around it. Quickly enough to whack the crap out of the thrower. The ball/chain is probably safer and also easier to maintain.

    Seriously, though, they should have something that looks like a hammer from World of Warcraft, or Mjolnir.
    I’d also like to see a “light hammer” event in which you throw a 6lb sledge at something. Like, maybe you have a pile of cinderblocks and you have to break the top one.

  2. flex says

    Why don’t they call it the ‘ball and chain throw’?

    To prevent spectators from thinking that contestants are throwing family members?

    Okay, maybe not.

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