Throwing a javelin involves strength, speed and technique. If a pitcher is deficient in any of these aspects, he can still be competitive. However, to be an elite javelin thrower, an athlete must be strong, fast and have tremendous technique and knowledge about how a javelin flies.
History of the javelin
The throwing of javelins has existed since the ancestral games. It was not until 1780 that it was thrown strictly competing distances in the Olympic Games. In 1986 the javelin that was used in the Olympic competitions was modified, forcing the pitchers to change their throw angle.
Center of gravity and pressure
The two most important factors involved in the physics of throwing a javelin are the center of gravity and the center of pressure. The center of gravity is close to the grip and does not change during the launch. There is a popular saying of how to throw a javelin: "throwing through the tip", which means throwing through the grip or center of gravity.
The center of pressure is the aerodynamic force of drag and lift on the javelin. The change in 1986 made it much easier to launch and measure the javelins, because their center of pressure was moved behind their center of gravity.
Launching with the optimum angle of attack is to throw the javelin at the angle at which the air flows most efficiently around the javelin. To produce maximum distance, the javelin must be launched with the angle of attack to minimize drag and maximize lift and speed. The angle of attack throwing with a wind against the slightly more downward causing less lift than when a javelin is thrown with wind in favor.
There is no angle that will guarantee the greatest distance in each throw. The wind speed and its direction change the optimum launch angle significantly. Also the force and speed that can produce the launcher changes the direction in which the javelin should be thrown. Before the change in javelins of 1986, some of the best pitchers in the world used an angle as small as 30 degrees but higher speed because they could hold the javelin longer, producing more strength. The elite launchers still use this method, however the most common method is to throw the javelin with an angle of approximately 40 degrees, causing more lift and flight to the javelin.