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The modern or Olympic hammer throw is an athletic throwing event where the object to be thrown is a heavy steel ball attached with wire (maximum length 4 ft (1.22 m)) to a handle. The name "hammer throw" is derived from older competitions where an actual hammer was thrown. Such competitions are still part of the Scottish Highland Games, where the implement used is a steel or lead weight at the end of a cane handle.
Like other throwing events, the competition is decided by who can throw the ball the farthest. The men's hammer weighs 16 lb (7.257 kg) and the women's hammer weighs 8.82 lb (4 kg). Competitors gain maximum distance by spinning the hammer above their head to set up the circular motion. Then they apply force and pick up speed by completing one to four turns in the circle. In competition, most throwers turn three or four times. The ball moves in a circular path, gradually increasing in velocity with each turn with the high point of the ball toward the sector and the low point at the back of the circle. The thrower releases the ball from the front of the circle. The two most important factors for a long throw are the angle of release and the speed of the ball.
While the men's hammer throw has been in the Olympic Games since 1900, the IAAF did not start ratifying women's marks until 1995. Women's hammer throw was first included in the Olympics at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, after having been included in the World Championships a year earlier.
The current world record for the men's hammer was set by Yuriy Sedykh who threw 86.74 m at the European athletics championships held in Stuttgart, West Germany in 1986.
The current world record for the women's hammer was set by Tatyana Lysenko who threw 78.61 m in Sochi, Russia on 26th May, 2007