A History of the Discus Throw in Track and Field

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The early days of discus throwing

"Marble Statue of a Discus-thrower," aka Discobolus
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Discus throwing dates back to the ancient Greek Olympic Games, as depicted in this Fifth Century B.C. statue from the British Museum, "Discobolus," by the sculptor Myron. The 8th century B.C. poet Homer also referred to discus throwing, which was a part of the Greeks' pentathlon event. The early discs were made of unwrought bronze and iron and were apparently heavier than today's competitive discus.

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Modern Olympic Discus

Robert Garrett displays his discus form at the 1896 Olympics.
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Fittingly, the first modern Olympics in 1896 included the discus throw event, which was won by American Robert Garrett.

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Women join Olympics

A depiction of Lillian Copeland competing at the 1932 Olympics.
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When women entered Olympic track and field competition in 1928, discus was their lone throwing event. American Lillian Copeland, shown above in an illustration depicting her gold medal-winning performance, earned a silver medal in 1928 before striking gold in 1932.

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Four-time champ

Al Oerter in action at the 1956 Olympics, where he won the first of four consecutive Olympic gold medals.
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American Al Oerter dominated Olympic discus from 1956-68, winning four consecutive gold medals while setting new Olympic records each time. He's pictured above at the 1956 Games.

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World records

Jurgen Schult throws the discus in 1989. Schult set a world record and also earned one Olympic and one World Championship gold medal during his athletic career.
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East Germany's Jurgen Schult set a discus-throw world record of 74.08 meters (243 feet) on June 6, 1986. As of 2015, the mark still stands. Another East German, Gabriele Reinsch, set a women's world record in the discus with a throw measuring 76.80 meters (251 feet, 11 inches) on July 9, 1988.

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Modern discus throwing

Virgilijus Alekna, on his way to victory in the 2005 World Championships. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Eastern Europeans have dominated both men's and women's discus in 21st-century Olympic competitions. Lithuania's Virgilijus Alekna, shown here competing in the 2005 World Championships, won Olympic gold medals in 2000 and 2004.

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London men's champ

Robert Harting gained the discus throw gold medal at the 2012 Olympics. Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Germany's Robert Harting gained the 2012 Olympic men's discus gold medal with a toss measuring 68.27 meters (223 feet, 11 inches).

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Perk-ing up in London

Sandra Perkovic displays her gold-medal form at the 2012 London Olympics. Stu Forster/Getty Images

Sandra Perkovic of Croatia was the 2012 Olympic women's discus champion. Her longest throw traveled 69.11 meters (226 feet, 8 inches).