The javelin thrower gains momentum by running within a predetermined area. Javelin throwing is an event of both the men's decathlon and the women's heptathlon.
The javelin throw was added to the Ancient Olympic Games as part of the pentathlon in 708 BC. It included two events, one for distance and the other for accuracy in hitting a target. The javelin was thrown with the aid of a thong (ankyle in Greek) that was wound around the middle of the shaft. Athletes held the javelin by the ankyle, and when they released the shaft, the unwinding of the thong gave the javelin a spiral trajectory.
Throwing javelin-like poles into targets was revived in Germany and Sweden in the early 1870s. In Sweden, these poles developed into the modern javelin, and throwing them for distance became a common event there and in Finland in the 1880s. The rules continued to evolve over the next decades; originally, javelins were thrown with no run-up, and holding them by the grip at the center of gravity was not always mandatory. Limited run-ups were introduced in the late 1890s, and soon developed into the modern unlimited run-up
In the late 19th and early 20th century, most javelin competitions were two-handed; the implement was thrown with the right hand and separately with the left hand, and the best marks for each hand were added together. Competitions for the better hand only were less common, though not unknown. At the Olympics a both-hands contest was held only once, in 1912. Finland swept the medals, ahead of Lemming. After that, this version of the javelin rapidly faded into obscurity, together with similar variations of the shot and the discus. Sweden's Yngve Häckner, with his total of 114.28 m from 1917, was the last official both-hands world record holder.
Another early variant was the freestyle javelin, in which holding the javelin by the grip at the center of gravity was not mandatory; such a freestyle competition was held at the 1908 Olympics, but was dropped from the program after that.