Yelena Gorchakova - U.S.S.R. - Javelin WR and bronze medal at 1964 Tokyo Olympics

Photo/Foto: E. D. Lacey (1922-1976)

Date: 16 October 1964

Click on image to enlarge

      Wednesday, 17 May 1933
      Moscow, USSR. Died 27th. Janauary 2002. Aged 68.
  • U.S.S.R.

Yelena GORCHAKOVA - U.S.S.R. - Javelin WR and bronze medal at 1964 Tokyo Olympics

Yelena Gorchakova's long and successful career as a javelin thrower would have been even more meritorious if it hadn't been for bad timing. Firstly, although she was consistently in the top ten throwers in the world for over 15 years, Gorchakova competed at a time when the Soviet Union dominated the event, making it difficult for her to gain selection for international representation. Secondly, as discussed in more detail below, she produced the greatest throw of her career in the right place, but too early in the day. At the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Gorchakova threw 49.76m on her second throw which moved her into second place. She remained in this position until the last round, when a throw by compatriot Aleksandra Chudina relegated Gorchakova to the bronze medal. Yelena was unable to gain selection to major championships over the next ten years, despite the fact that she was always high in each year's rankings and her distances steadily improved. Her next major representational opportunity was at the 1962 European Championships in Belgrade where she finished in 8th place. Gorchakova had increased her personal best to 55.62m in 1963, but it came as a complete surprise when, at 10.20am on 16 October 1964, in the qualifying round of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, she unleashed a throw of 62.40m to shatter the world record, and become the first woman to throw beyond 200 feet. Naturally enough, all eyes were upon Gorchakova when she threw in the final later that day (see photo above), but sadly she could not reproduce her morning's throw, although she did manage to capture the bronze medal with a throw of 57.06m. Gorchakova's last major international appearance was at the 1966 European Championships in Budapest where she finished in fourth place. (Ron Casey)