The origins of the hammer throw can be traced back centuries ago in the British Isles, where legends place it in the Tailteann Games which were held in Ireland in about 2000BC. Cu Chulainn, who was a Celtic hero, was reported to have gripped the axle of a chariot wheel, before whirling it around his head, thus allowing him to throw it much further than the other competitors.
Throwing a boulder which had been attached to a wooden handle later replaced wheel hurling. Other reports of hammer throwing can be traced to ancient Teutonic tribes during religious festivals. This was practiced in honor of the God Thor. During the 15th and 16th centruy, sledgehammer throwing was often performed in England and Scotland.
In terms of track and field competition, the hammer throw has been seen since 1866 in England, Scotland and Ireland. In 1875, the event was standardized by using a hammer which was 7.2kg in weight and 1067.5mm in length and by adding the requirements that it must be thrown from a circle 2.135m (7 feet) in diameter.
In terms of the Olympic Games, the hammer throw event was first introduced in 1900 for men although the women’s hammer event had to wait until 2000 before its introduction. The early hammers utilized wooden handles with forged-iron heads however it is now required by the IAAF that a wire-handled spherical weight be used.
The ball is usually comprised of iron or another metal that is not softer than brass or it can be filled with lead or other suitable material.
Spring steel wire is used to make the hand, with one end attaching to the handle and the other attaching to the ball. A ball bearing swivel and a loop is used to attach the ends.
For safety of spectators and officials a C-shaped cage encloses the throwing circle.
In terms of hammer throwing technique, a thrower will make either three or four, quick turns of the body before releasing the weight. If you have ever seen it performed it clearly requires a lot of balance, strength and timing. The athlete must remain inside of the throwing circle and the hammer must land within the 40 degree sector marked on the field otherwise the throw will not count.