Thomas Alan "Tom" Petranoff (born April 8, 1958 in Aurora, Illinois) is a former world record holder in the javelin throw; his May 1983 effort thrown in Drake Stadium at UCLA was greater than the length of an entire American football field at 99.72 m (327 ft 1 3⁄4 in). He was a silver medalist at the World Championships in Athletics in 1983 and represented the United States at the Summer Olympics in 1984 and 1988. He transferred to South Africa in the 1990s and was twice a winner at the African Championships in Athletics. In his final years he returned to the United States and won a medal at the 1999 Pan American Games.
Petranoff's world record added precisely three meters to the previous global standard of 96.72 m, set in 1980 by Hungary's Ferenc Paragi. Petranoff's effort fueled further discussion and speculation regarding the likelihood of alterations to the javelin's design and flight characteristics. Propelled by the need to shorten distances and the then frequent flat or ambiguous landings (which resulted in many controversial official judgements), a change to a new design finally took effect in April 1986. By then, East German Uwe Hohn had greatly improved Petranoff's mark with a throw of 104.80 meters. This throw only came after the changes had been officially proposed and (unlike Petranoff's record) was not a driving cause of the change.
Petranoff's mark with the old javelin design was never exceeded by any throw other than Hohn's mark. He also did well with the new design; his personal best of 89.16, thrown at Potchefstroom, South Africa on March 1, 1991, was at the time the second best ever (excluding marks thrown with a soon illegalized "rough-tailed javelin" that had been introduced by Miklós Németh), behind only Steve Backley's world record of 89.58, and as of 2009 has still only been exceeded by 12 throwers.
In 1984, Petranoff won the Superstars championship with a record score of 61 points. He qualified for the United States Olympic Team, but finished a disappointing 10th in the final in Los Angeles.
A native of Illinois, Petranoff later became a citizen of South Africa and competed for that country in various international competitions.
Petranoff is also the inventor of the "Turbo Javelin." This implement is used for javelin practice, especially of the indoor kind. Made of heavy duty plastic and a rubber tip, the turbo javelin is very safe and ideal for indoor practice, and makes a good substitute for younger throwers as the official javelin can be dangerous. It is now used in its own competitions for people of all ages and is great for recreation departments and much more. The world record holder with the turbo javelin is Breaux Greer of the U.S.A.
Petranoff now lives in California; he has coached for institutions such as Boston University.
|1984||Olympic Games||Los Angeles, United States||10th||78.40 m|
|1986||Goodwill Games||Moscow, Soviet Union||1st||83.46 m|
|1987||World Championships||Rome, Italy||4th||81.28 m|
|1988||Olympic Games||Seoul, South Korea||18th (q)||77.48 m|
|Representing South Africa|
|1992||African Championships||Mauritius||1st||87.26 m|
|1993||World Championships||Stuttgart, Germany||22nd (q)||75.26 m|
|African Championships||Durban, South Africa||1st||82.40 m|
|1999||Pan American Games||Winnipeg, Canada||3rd||75.95 m|