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discus


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A throwing event that was included in the early ancient Olympic Games, and has been long established as a core field event in athletic competitions and meets worldwide. The discus is a circular object made of wood, tapering out from a thick centre, with metal plates set into the rim. Thrown with one hand, and constant in conception and shape since its Olympic origins, it has symbolized the longevity of the fundamental act of throwing an object; the Greek sculptor Myron's statue of Discobolos (c.460–450bc) has come to stand for the resilience and universality of athletic motion. It featured centrally, as a motif or an inspiration, in the official Olympic posters of the 1920 Antwerp and the 1948 London Olympic Games, and was the astoundingly beautiful moving image linking classical past and modern present at the beginning of the Leni Riefenstahl film of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Olympia. The discus is also one of the ten events in the decathlon.

In the men's Olympic competition, the USA dominated the event for many decades from the 1896 Games until the later 1970s, after which East European nations and Germany, and then, especially, Lithuania (three golds from 1992 to 2004) and Estonia (gold in Beijing in 2008) produced the champion throwers. In the women's event, inaugurated in Amsterdam in 1928, East European and Soviet athletes began to dominate after 1952, when the Soviet Union first entered the Games. In the 2004 Games at Athens, gold was won by Russian Natalya Sadova, who two years later was banned for two years by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) after a positive drugs test for the anabolic steroid methandinone. At Beijing 2008, the gold was won by a US athlete. These fluctuating national fortunes have clearly been intertwined with the use of performance-enhancement drugs, and the advances that have been made in both their detection and their masking. The same broad story—though not quite so emphatically—can also be told about the shot-put, particularly in the women's event, which did not begin until 1948; though victories for Cuban and New Zealand athletes in 2004 and 2008 respectively broke the East European stranglehold on the event. Tamara Press of the Soviet Union/Ukraine won gold in Rome (1960) and Tokyo (1964), also taking the gold for the discus throw at Tokyo. Press disappeared from competitive athletics and international competition, though, when sex tests were introduced at international events. See also Galen; Greece, ancient, sport in; gymnasion; Olympic Games, ancient.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.


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