What was the men’s javelin world record to prior to 1986?

The current world record for the men’s javelin is 98.48 metres, set by Jan Železný in Jena, Germany on May 25, 1996. However, prior to April, 1986, when changes to the 800 gram javelin specification were brought into force by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Technical Commitee, the world record was 104.80 metres, set by Uwe Hohn in East Berlin, East Germany on July 20, 1984.

The specification changes involved moving the centre of mass forward 4cm and bluntening the tip of the javelin, so that it was less aerodynamic. The changes were implemented to guarantee that the javelin landed point first and to reduce its flight distance. The new specification successfully reduced flight distance by approximately 10%, but javelin manufacturers responded by producing the so-called ‘Nemeth’ javelin, designed by former world record holder Miklós Németh.

The Nemeth javelin employed a roughened, or serrated, tail, which improved the flight characteristics of the javelin. However, this model was outlawed by the IAAF Technical Committee in August, 1991, and several world records, including the 96.96 metres set by Seppo Räty in Punkalaidun, Finland in June, 1991, were expunged from the record books. At that stage, the world record reverted to the previous record of 89.58 metres, set by Steve Backley, with a non-Nemeth javelin, in Stockholm, Sweden on July 2, 1990.