Going The Distance – A Brief Discus History

By | July 15, 2022

Like many other athletics events, the discus has its origins in ancient Greece. The history of the disc can be traced back to the 8th century BC. and the competition is depicted in ancient Greek art and the epic poetry of Homer. Discus was one of 12 athletic events held at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. When the Olympics were opened to women in 1928, discus was the first weight throwing competition they competed in.

Along with wrestling, javelin throw, long jump and either boxing or a race called the stadium, discus fighting was one of the essential military skills of the ancient pentathlon. The discus was made of bronze and iron and was much heavier than discs used in modern competitions. Unlike wrestling, boxing and running, discus was never an individual competition and was only used in pentathlon.

In 1896 the Olympic Games were revived and discus was one of the 12 athletic events at the first modern Games. Princeton track and field star Robert Garrett won this first modern discus competition almost by accident. Primarily a shot putter, Garrett was urged by one of his instructors to try discus. He hired a blacksmith to make a disc to designs based on depictions in classical art. The finished disc weighed more than 30 pounds and was nearly unusable.

When the US team arrived in Athens, Garrett discovered that a modern discus is smaller and lighter than the ancient version. He decided discus might be fun after all and entered the competition. Mimicking the style of classical art, the other contestants released their discs with beautiful precision. Garrett treated the discus like a hammer and threw it with all his might. It hurled end over end at the audience and only just missed the next spectators. Both the crowd and Garrett laughed at his merciless performance before his throw of 29.15 meters won the gold medal.

In 1928 the Olympic Games were opened to female athletes. The first woman to win a gold medal in Olympic discus shooting was Polish athlete and record holder Halina Konopacka, who broke her own record with a distance of 39.62 meters. American silver medalist Lillian Copeland won gold in 1932.

American Al Oerter was the dominant force in Olympic discus shooting for much of the late 1950’s and 1960’s. He won four consecutive gold medals between 1956 and 1968 and set several records. His records didn’t last forever, however, and in the 1980s the current men’s record of over 74 meters was set by Jürgen Schult, while the women’s record of 76.8 was set by Gabriele Reinsch.

Eastern Europeans like Lithuanian star Virgilijus Alekna are the dominant force in the sport right now. His achievements include 12 medals in numerous competitions, including two gold and one bronze at the Olympic Games.

Thanks to Gillian Laurence | #Distance #Discus #History

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