John J. Flanagan, looking lean and mean in this rare shot from 1899, was one of the world’s greatest heavy event athletes. Flanagan, who immigrated to the U.S from Ireland in 1897, competed in three Olympic games: Paris (1900), St. Louis (1904), and London (1908). He won four Olympic medals, in the throwing events: three Golds in the Hammer (setting the Olympic record of 51.01 m) and one Silver medal in the 56-pound weight throw. Flanagan also competed in the discus in Paris in 1900 (finishing seventh) and in the Tug-O-War in the 1908 Olympics.
The Hammer throw continues to be an ongoing event in the Olympic Track and Field competition but the 56-pound weight was only contested twice: the 1904 Games in St. Louis, Missouri and the 1920 Games held in Antwerp, Belgium. The 56-pound weight is, however, still contested in the Highland Games where it is thrown for distance and height. br>
Flanagan raised the world record in the 16 lbs. hammer throw in sixteen installments during his competitive career which lasted from 1895 to 1909. On July 24, 1909, at the age of 41, Flanagan set his last world record in the hammer with a throw of 56.18 meters.