The Hammer

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How it works

Athletes throw a metal ball (16lb/7.26kg for men, 4kg/8.8lb for women) for distance that’s attached to a grip by a steel wire no longer than 1.22m while remaining inside a seven-foot (2.135m) diameter circle.

In order for the throw to be measured, the ball must land inside a marked 35-degree sector and the athlete must not leave the circle before it has landed, and then only from the rear half of the circle.

The thrower usually makes three or four spins before releasing the ball. Athletes will commonly throw four or six times per competition. In the event of a tie, the winner will be the athlete with the next-best effort.


Legend traces the concept of the hammer throw to approximately 2000BC and the Tailteann Games in Tara, Ireland, where the Celtic warrior Culchulainn gripped a chariot wheel by its axle, whirled it around his head and threw it a huge distance.

The wheel was later replaced by a boulder attached to a wooden handle and the use of a sledgehammer is considered to have originated in England and Scotland during the Middle Ages. A 16th century drawing shows the English king Henry VIII throwing a blacksmith’s hammer.

The hammer was first contested by men at the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris but the first global competition for women was the 1999 IAAF World Championships.

Did you know

When Germany's Karl-Hans Riehm set a world record of 78.50m at a meeting in the German town of Rehlingen on 19 May 1975, all six of his throws were better than the previous world record of 76.66m.

Gold standard

US thrower John Flanagan is the only athlete to win three Olympic hammer titles, taking the gold medal on the first three occasions it was contested in 1900, 1904 and 1908.

The only time a world record has been set to win a women's global crown was when Poland's Anita Wlodarczyk won at the 2009 IAAF World Championships with a throw of 77.96m and when

Anita W. set a world record in Rio this summer with her 82.29m throw.

Yuriy Sedykh

The Russian, competing for the Soviet Union, won two Olympic gold medals in 1976 and 1980. He then had to wait another 11 years before winning the 1991 world title at the age of 36. He also won at three successive European Championships in 1978, 1982 and 1986. Sedykh set six world records and his 1986 mark of 86.74m still stands on top of the world all-time list.

Yipsi Moreno

Since the introduction of the women’s hammer at major championships just over a decade ago, few can match the record of the powerful Cuban. She won world titles in 2001, 2003 and 2005 and earned Olympic silver medals in 2004 and 2008. 

182.98Anita WLODARCZYK8 AUG 1985POLPOL1Warszawa (Stadion Narodowy)28 AUG 2016
82.29Anita WLODARCZYK8 AUG 1985POLPOL1Rio de Janeiro (Estádio Olímpico)15 AUG 2016
81.08Anita WLODARCZYK8 AUG 1985POLPOL1Cetniewo (OPO)01 AUG 2015
80.85Anita WLODARCZYK8 AUG 1985POLPOL1Beijing (National Stadium)27 AUG 2015
80.26Anita WLODARCZYK8 AUG 1985POLPOL1Cetniewo (OPO)12 JUL 2016
79.61Anita WLODARCZYK8 AUG 1985POLPOL1Szczecin (Miejski Stadion)18 JUN 2016
79.58Anita WLODARCZYK8 AUG 1985POLPOL1Berlin (Olympiastadion)31 AUG 2014
79.48Anita WLODARCZYK8 AUG 1985POLPOL1c1Halle21 MAY 2016
79.45Anita WLODARCZYK8 AUG 1985POLPOL1Forbach29 MAY 2016
279.42Betty HEIDLER14 OCT 1983GERGER1c1Halle21 MAY 2011

186.74Yuriy SEDYKH11 JUN 1955URSURS1Stuttgart (Neckarstadion)30 AUG 1986
86.66Yuriy SEDYKH11 JUN 1955URSURS1Tallinn22 JUN 1986
86.34Yuriy SEDYKH11 JUN 1955URSURS1Cork03 JUL 1984
286.04Sergey LITVINOV23 JAN 1958URSURS1Dresden03 JUL 1986
85.74Sergey LITVINOV23 JAN 1958URSURS2Stuttgart (Neckarstadion)30 AUG 1986
85.68Yuriy SEDYKH11 JUN 1955URSURS1Budapest11 AUG 1986
85.60Yuriy SEDYKH11 JUN 1955URSURS1London13 JUL 1984
85.60Yuriy SEDYKH11 JUN 1955URSURS1Moskva17 AUG 1984
85.20Sergey LITVINOV23 JAN 1958URSURS2Cork03 JUL 1984
85.14Sergey LITVINOV23 JAN 1958URSURS1London11 JUL 1986


182.98 m (272 ft 2 34 in) Anita Włodarczyk (POL)28 August 2016Warsaw[3]
279.42 m (260 ft 6 34 in) Betty Heidler (DEU)21 May 2011Halle
378.80 m (258 ft 6 14 in) Tatyana Lysenko (RUS)16 August 2013Moscow
478.69 m (258 ft 2 in) Aksana Miankova (BLR)18 July 2012Minsk
577.68 m (254 ft 10 14 in) Zheng Wang (CHN)29 March 2014Chengdu
677.33 m (253 ft 8 14 in) Zhang Wenxiu (CHN)28 September 2014Incheon
777.26 m (253 ft 5 12 in) Gulfiya Agafonova (RUS)12 June 2006Tula
877.13 m (253 ft 0 12 in) Oksana Kondratyeva (RUS)30 June 2013Zhukovskiy
976.90 m (252 ft 3 12 in) Martina Hrašnová (SVK)16 May 2009Trnava
1076.83 m (252 ft 0 34 in) Kamila Skolimowska (POL)11 May 2007Doha


186.74 m (284 ft 6 34 in) Yuriy Sedykh (SUN)Stuttgart30 August 1986
286.04 m (282 ft 3 14 in) Sergey Litvinov (SUN)Dresden3 July 1986
384.90 m (278 ft 6 12 in) Vadim Devyatovskiy (BLR)Minsk21 July 2005
484.86 m (278 ft 4 34 in) Koji Murofushi (JPN)Prague29 June 2003
584.62 m (277 ft 7 14 in) Igor Astapkovich (BLR)Seville6 June 1992
684.51 m (277 ft 3 in) Ivan Tsikhan (BLR)Grodno9 July 2008
784.48 m (277 ft 1 34 in) Igor Nikulin (SUN)Lausanne12 July 1990
884.40 m (276 ft 10 34 in) Jüri Tamm (SUN)Banská Bystrica9 September 1984
984.19 m (276 ft 2 12 in) Adrián Annus (HUN)Szombathely10 August 2003
1083.93 m (275 ft 4 14 in) Paweł Fajdek (POL)Szczecin9 August 2015