The Handstand Games in Moscow – Sports the Olympics Forgot

When the Handstand games resumed after World War I Yashin realized that he should try and include some throwing events. The discus proved impossible to include and the javelin far too dangerous, but there was more success with the shot putt and hammer.

Yashin allowed athletes to wear shoes with semi-circular indentations in the soles so that when the feet were placed together a shot putt would fit neatly in the hollowed out area. The thrower could then bring their knees gently towards their chest before powering the shot away with all their leg strength. After the shot has gone the thrower’s feet can hit the ground as long as they don’t touch down outside the circle. The record for this event is 34 feet 7 inches by Maxim Borisov in 1973.

The hammer throw uses an 8lb ball and is the most dangerous event to watch as timing is the key attribute rather than strength. The athlete stands on their hands and then the Hammer Judge places the hammer over one of their feet. The thrower then gyrates their foot so that the hammer spins around, faster and faster. When the athlete is ready they point their toe towards the open part of the hammer cage and hope that the hammer goes in that direction. Even the most experienced hammer throwers only get one out of every three throws heading in the right direction. Accidents are common and most competitors have been hit by their own hammer many times. Oleg Kirilenko set the record, 146 feet 9 inches, in 1987 although this was wind assisted.

The most balletic event is undoubtedly the 400-metres hurdles introduced in 1965. There are only 9 hurdles, 2 feet 6 inches high and 40 metres apart, in the handstand hurdles. At the start the hurdlers stand on their hands and head towards the first hurdle; when they get a suitable distance away, they spring over the hurdle and land on their feet; they must then do a handstand again before continuing the race – this process is repeated at each of the remaining 8 hurdles and then the athlete sprints to the line. The record is 1 minute 58 seconds by the Bulgarian athlete Maxim Dimitrov in 1983.

Published by Julian Worker

I was born in Leicester. I attended school in Yorkshire and University in Liverpool. I have been to 93 countries and territories including The Balkans and Armenia in 2015, France and Slovakia in 2016, and some of the Greek Islands in 2017. My sense of humour is distilled from The Goons, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. I love being creative in my writing and I love writing about travelling. My next books are a travel book about Greece and a novel inspired by Brexit.

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