Olympic Discus Throw Rules

American discus athlete Alfred Adolf Oerter Jr.
American discus athlete Alfred Adolf Oerter Jr.

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Discus is one of the world's oldest sports, dating to at least the eighth century B.C. Discus was a part of the first modern Games in 1896. It was also the first Olympic women's throwing event, beginning in 1928 when Poland's Halina Konopacka became the only discus thrower to set a world record during an Olympic Games. Though Olympic competitions have often proved exciting, the discus is the only track and field sport in which a men's world record has never been set during an Olympic Games. ​

What Is Olympic Discus?

In this event, throwers spin to generate speed then hurl the metal plate down the field as far as they can. The sport evolved from stone-throwing hunting techniques and, much more recently, inspired the frisbee. The discus also has a proud heritage of its own, dating back to the ancient Greek Olympics.

Strength, agility, and balance all come into play as the discus thrower executes the spins necessary to generate speed, power and, consequently, a long throw. For non-Olympic discus competitions, young athletes throw a lighter discus. But other than that the rules for discus, as with the other throwing events, are fairly uniform, from the lowest levels to the Olympic Games. 


The men’s discus weighs 2 kilograms and has a diameter of 22 centimeters. The women’s version weighs 1 kilogram and has a diameter of 18 centimeters.

Throwing Area

The discus is thrown from a circle with a diameter of 2.5 meters. Competitors may touch the inside of the circle's rim but cannot touch the top of the rim during the throw. The thrower cannot touch the ground outside the throwing circle during an attempt, nor can he or she leave the circle until the discus hits the ground. All discus throws are made from an enclosure to ensure the safety of bystanders.

The Competition

Athletes in the discus must achieve an Olympic qualifying distance and must qualify for their nation’s Olympic team. A maximum of three competitors per country may compete in the discus. A qualifying round reduces the Olympic discus competitors to 12 for the final. The results from the qualification rounds do not carry over into the final.

Twelve competitors qualify for the Olympic discus throw final. As in all throwing events, the 12 finalists have three attempts apiece, then the top eight competitors receive three more attempts. The longest single throw during the final wins.

Olympic Medals and History

American men once dominated the discus, winning 14 of the first 19 gold medals. World records in the discus have often been set by Americans outside of the Olympic Games, including Al Oerter and Mac Wilkins. But prior to Stephanie Brown Trafton's gold medal performance in 2008, the U.S. hadn't won a discus medal—on either the men's or women's side—since 1984.