Gold medal distances in the shot put at the Summer Olympics 1896-2016

The shot put has been an Olympic event for men since the inaugural games in 1896, and the women's event has featured in all Olympic Games since 1948. Although the sport is seen by many as an iconic Olympic event, there is no record of it ever featuring in the Ancient Games. The earliest records of competitive stone throwing trace back to the Scottish Highlands, in competitions that gradually evolved into the Highland Games; a tournament that greatly influenced Pierre de Coubertin when he was reviving the modern Olympics in 1896. The modern event involves competitors resting a ball (weighing 7.26 kilograms for men and 4 kilograms for women) against their neck, and then creating as much momentum with their body as they can, in order to throw the ball as far as possible.

Glide vs Spin

The two most common throwing styles are the glide technique (popularized by the 1952 and 1956 gold medalist Parry O'Brien) and spin technique (popularized by the 1976 bronze and 1980 silver medalist Aleksandr Baryshnikov). The glide technique sees the thrower build up momentum through their body by shifting in a straight line towards the field, then turning 180 degrees and thrusting upwards as they release the ball; in contrast, the spin technique is more similar to a discus throw, where the thrower builds momentum by spinning their body (usually one and a half times) before releasing the weight. Men generally favor the spin technique (although the two farthest throws of all time were achieved using different techniques), while women almost exclusively use the glide method at the top level.

Records

The Olympic record for men was set by the US' Ryan Crouser in 2016, with his winning throw of 22.52 meters, while the women's record was set by East Germany's Ilona Slupianek in 1980, with a throw of 22.41 meters. The world records for the shot put were set by Randy Barnes in 1990, with a throw of 23.12 meters for the men's records, while the Soviet Union's Natalya Lisovskaya set the women's record of of 22.63 meters in 1987. Coincidentally, the women's winning throws in the 1996, 2000 and 2008 Olympics were all exactly 20.56 meters. The US has enjoyed the most success in the shot put at the Olympics, winning 17 golds in the men's event, while the Soviet Union took 6 golds in the women's. Three men have won back-to-back gold medals, they were the United States' Ralph Rose in 1904 and 1908 and Parry O'Brien in 1952 and 1956, and Poland's Tomasz Majewski in 2008 and 2012. The two women with back-to-back golds were the Soviet Union's Tamara Press in 1960 and 1964, and New Zealand's Valerie Adams in 2008 and 2016. Adams could become the first Olympian to win three golds in the shot put if she claims victory in Tokyo 2020.

Gold medal winning distances in the Men's and Women's shot put at the Summer Olympics from 1896 to 2016

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Sources

Release date

2019

Region

Worldwide

Survey time period

1896 to 2016

Supplementary notes

This data was collected using the official Olympic.org site, as well as a spreadsheet from the Guardian that includes data from 1896-2008 (available here), 2012 and 2016 data was compared with that from Encyclopaedia Britannica, and several news outlets were used to update the table when medals were reassigned (i.e. for doping offenses).

The winning athletes (male listed first) and their represented countries are as follows:
1896 - Robert Garrett (US)
1900 - Richard Sheldon (US)
1904 - Ralph Rose (US)
1908 - Ralph Rose (US)
1912 - Patrick McDonald (US)
1920 - Ville Pörhölä (Finland)
1924 - Bud Houser (US)
1928 - John Kuck (US)
1932 - Leo Sexton (US)
1936 - Hans Woellke (Germany)
1948 - Wilbur Thompson (US) & Micheline Ostermeyer (France)
1952 - Parry O'Brien (US) & Galina Zybina (Soviet Union)
1956 - Parry O'Brien (US) & Tamara Tyshkevich (Soviet Union)
1960 - William Nieder (US) & Tamara Press (Soviet Union)
1964 - Dallas Long (US) & Tamara Press (Soviet Union)
1968 - Randy Matson (US) & Margita Helmbold-Gummel (East Germany)
1972 - Wladislaw Komar (Poland) & Nadezhda Chizhova (Soviet Union)
1976 - Udo Beyer (East Germany) & Ivanka Khristova (Bulgaria)
1980 - Vladimir Kiselev (Soviet Union) & Ilona Schoknecht-Slupianek (East Germany)
1984 - Alessandro Andrei (Italy) & Claudia Losch (West Germany)
1988 - Ulf Timmermann (East Germany) & Natalya Lisovskaya (Soviet Union)
1992 - Mike Stulce (US) & Svetlana Krivelyova (Unified Team)
1996 - Randy Barnes (US) & Astrid Kumbernuss (Germany)
2000 - Arsi Harju (Finland) & Yanina Karolchik (Belarus)
2004 - Adam Nelson (US) & Yumileidi Cumba (Cuba)
2008 - Tomasz Majewski (Poland) & Valerie Adams (New Zealand)
2012 - Tomasz Majewski (Poland) & Valerie Adams (New Zealand)
2016 - Ryan Crouser (US) & Michelle Carter (US)

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