In its brief history, the Czech Republic has enjoyed excellent success in the javelin, led by three-time Olympic champion Jan Zelezny. On the women’s side, the top name is Barbora Spotakova, who’ll likely try to match Zelezny’s Olympic three-peat in the 2016 Rio Games. Whether she’s successful or not, Spotakova has earned her status as one of the great javelin throwers of all time. Spotakova doesn’t plan to compete in 2013, due to her pregnancy.
Spotakova comes from a mixed track and field family. Her mother was a javelin thrower, while her father ran the 400 meters. Although Spotakova eventually followed in her mother’s footsteps, she broke into the international athletics scene as a multi-events performer. Spotakova finished fourth in the heptathlon at the 2000 World Junior Championships and won the Hexham International Combined Events meet in the UK the same year. She competed in multi events during her one year at the University of Minnesota in 2002, reaching the NCAA heptathlon final, but also earned All-America honors in the javelin. She returned briefly to multi events in 2012 and scored a personal best 5,880 points to place sixth at the Decastar meet in Talence, France shortly after the London Olympics.
On the Rise:
After returning to the Czech Republic following her season in Minnesota, Spotakova decided to focus on javelin throwing. She qualified, but didn’t reach the final, for the 2004 Olympics and the 2005 World Championships. Spotakova continued to improve, however, passing the 60-meter mark in 2004 and placing fifth in the 2005 World Athletic Final with a toss measuring 61.60 meters. In 2006 she was second in the European Championships and won her first of three straight World Athletics Final championships with a 66.21-meter effort.
World Championship Success:
Spotakova took the lead with her initial throw in the 2007 World Championship final, then wrapped up her victory with a then-personal best and national record toss of 67.07 meters in round three. She struggled with a sore right elbow at the 2009 World Championships, but still managed to take the silver medal. She then fought a fierce duel with Maria Abakumova in Daegu in 2011. Spotakova led early, fell behind, then moved into first with a final-round throw measuring 71.58 meters, only to settle for silver again as Abakumova answered with a 71.99-meter toss.
The 2008 Olympic final was a preview of the 2011 World Championship battle, except Spotakova emerged victorious in Beijing, passing Abakumova with a sixth-round effort measuring 71.42 meters for a then-European record. Spotakova then dominated the 2012 Olympic final, registering the top four throws to take her second gold medal with a top effort of 69.55 meters.
Spotakova opened her bid for a third consecutive World Athletics Final championship by breaking the modern world javelin record with a first-round throw of 72.28 meters. The meet was held in Stuttgart shortly after the Beijing Olympics.
Rudolf Cerny was Spotakova’s long-time javelin coach – during which time Zelezny was among her training partners – before she made Zelezny her full-time coach in 2010. In addition to her 2012 Olympic success, Spotakova’s recent triumphs have included the 2010 and 2012 Diamond League championships.
- Height: 6 feet
- Weight: 176 pounds
- Birth date: June 30, 1981
- Hometown: Jablonec, Czech Republic
- Personal best: 72.28 meters (237 feet, 1 inch)