Discus - Encyclopedia

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DISCUS (Gr. &Okos, disk), a circular plate of stone, later of metal, which was used by the ancient Greeks for throwing to a distance as a gymnastic exercise. Judging from specimens found by excavators, the ancient discus was about 8 or 9 in. in diameter and weighed from 4 to 5 lb, although one of bronze, preserved in the British Museum, weighs over 8 lb. Sometimes a kind of quoit, spherical in form, was used, through a hole in which a thong was passed to assist the athlete in throwing it. The sport of throwing the discus was common in the time of Homer, who mentions it repeatedly. It formed a part of the pentathlon, or quintuple games, in the ancient Olympic Games. Statius, in Thebais, 646 -721, fully describes the use of the discus. In the British Museum there is a restored copy of a statue by Myron (see Greek Art, Plate IV. fig. 68) of a discus-thrower (discobolus) in the act of hurling the missile; but the investigations of N. E. Norman Gardiner show that a wrong attitude has been adopted by the restorer.

Throwing the discus was introduced as an event in modern athletics at the revived Olympic Games, first held at Athens in 1896, and since that time it has become a recognized event in the athletic championship meetings of several European nations, as well as in the United States, where it has become very popular. According to the American rules the discus must be of a smooth, hard-wood body without finger-holes, weighted in the centre with lead disks and capped with polished brass disks, with a steel ring on the outside. Its weight must be 41 lb, its outside diameter 8 in. and its thickness at the centre 2 in. It must be thrown from a 7 -ft. circle, which may not be overstepped in throwing, and the throw is measured from the spot where the discus first strikes the ground to the point in the circumference of the circle on a line between the centre and the point of striking.

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