Barbora Spotakova (Getty Images)
Barbora Spotakova (Getty Images)
  • COUNTRY Czech Republic Czech Republic
  • DATE OF BIRTH 30 JUN 1981

Focus on Athletes biographies are produced by the IAAF Communications Dept, and not by the IAAF Statistics and Documentation Division. If you have any enquiries concerning the information, please use the Contact IAAF page, selecting ‘Focus on Athletes Biographies’ in the drop down menu of contact area options.


Updated 9 September 2014

 

Barbora SPOTAKOVA, Czech Republic (Javelin Throw)

Born: 30 June 1981, Jablonec nad Nisou

1.82m / 79kg

Coach: Jan Zelezny

Club:  Dukla Praha, (Army Sports Club in Prague)


 

Barbora Spotakova, the 2007 World, 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion, 2014 European champion and the current world record holder in the javelin, was a heptathlete in her early career. Her first major selection was for the 2000 World Junior Championships, in Santiago, Chile, where she finished fourth (5689 points). But she has focused on the javelin throw since 2004 after being encouraged to do so by a Bahaman coach during her American studies at the University of Minnesota, and by the javelin legend, Jan Zelezny. “Try javelin,” Zelezny, the men’s world record holder, from her home country, told Spotakova.

 

Spotakova had started in athletics at school, in Jablonec nad Nisou, where she was led mostly by her mother, Ludmila Spotakova. Barbora considers this period of her life very important. “I was not pushed into anything and nothing was lost, I got all-sports basics,” she said. Together with her mother she moved to the Czech capital, where she attended a Grammar school focused on sports.

 

In the school, where most top Czech athletes have studied, she tended towards the hurdles under the leadership of a coach Petr Cech. In 1999, she started to train regularly for combined event competitions, which suited her versatile talent. After her success in Chile, Spotakova decided to study in the USA for a while.

 

At 21, Spotakova got the first chance to perform at her first big senior meeting, the European Championships, in Munich, in 2002. The Czech federation chose to send young athletes who had reached the qualification standard for U23 championships. Spotakova was picked for the javelin even though she did not start to concentrate on it until towards the end of 2003.

 

Surgery in the autumn of 2003 to remove a benign tumour would be followed by two seasons with a painful knee. However, as 2003 drew towards a close, Zelezny advised her to pay more attention to the javelin and he invited her to a training camp in South Africa in the spring of 2004.

 

Spotakova did not leave combined events easily. In 2004, she tried decathlon just for fun at the end of season, and achieved 6749 points in Talence. At the 2004 Athens Olympics, the athlete, whose personal best for heptathlon is 5873 points (in 2000 in Prague), did not yet draw attention to herself as a javelin thrower. She was eliminated in the qualifying round.

Apart from Nikola Brejchova, the best female Czech javelin thrower at that time, almost nobody paid attention to Spotakova. A similar scenario was repeated at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, where the gate to the final closed on Spotakova, as she finished seventh in her group and 13th overall in qualifying. However, in September 2005, she added 1.66m to her PB (65.74) in the Czech city of Usti nad Labem

 

The most interesting part of Spotakova’s career started symbolically in the year when Jan Zelezny ended his brilliant career. The “era of Zelezny” finished and the “era of Spotakova” began. One of the measures of athletics immortality is the Olympic Games. Would a new Dana Zatopkova (the nation’s last women’s champion in 1952) be born at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing?

 

The athlete, who was coached by Rudolf Cerny at that time, improved the Czech record three times during the 2006 season and lost only 5 of 17 competitions. She achieved 6 of the 10 longest throws, including a Czech record (66.12) in the qualifying round of the European Championships in Gothenburg. In the final, she was second (65.64), 23cm behind Germany’s Steffi Nerius.

 

However, Spotakova avenged the defeat at the World Athletics Final, in Stuttgart, with a winning 66.21, another national record. At the end of the year, she received an offer to become a professional member of the Czech army. She agreed and became a Chief Warrant Officer.

  

Spotakova improved her national record twice in the final of the 2007 World Championships, in Osaka. She threw 66.40 in the first round to lead and 67.07 to secure the gold medal. Barbora became the seventh woman in the world to reach 67m. She then improved this mark to 67.12. The year was rounded off when Spotakova took the title of the best 2007 Czech athlete, defeating Roman Sebrle, and was second among all Czech sportsmen and women.

 

In 2008, Spotakova rose to N.4 on the all-time list, improving the Czech record to 69.15 in Zaragoza on 31 May. That mark led the year’s Top Lists going into the Olympics and she also had the second best distance after throwing 68.81 on 16 June, in front of her home crowd at 15th Josef Odlozil Memorial in Prague.  “The Olympic gold will take 70 metres,” said the 27-year-old Czech medal hope.

 

Barbora did not let anyone doubt her dominant position in the Olympic javelin throw final. On 21 August 2008, after a thrilling competition where Russian Mariya Abakumova led the event till the last round, Spotakova became an Olympic champion achieving the European record of 71.42 in the sixth round. Spotakova started the battle with a new national record, 69.22, but Abakumova was already 10 centimetres further. “I have always been saying: one day I was going to win with a beautiful last attempt. And now it happened at the Olympics,” the fresh Olympic champion confessed. “This is the most beautiful day of my life. I am not able to describe what I feel. It is a great continuation of Czech javelin tradition.”

 

But this was not the end of her achievements in that Olympic year. The World Athletics Final in Stuttgart was the place where Spotakova broke the world record to continue the famous Czech javelin throw history of Dana Zatopkova and Jan Zelezny. 72.28 was the mark of the “Queen of the first round”, as they call Barbora for mostly achieving the best first attempts, which she confirmed also in Stuttgart. “It is a wonderful feeling to break the world record, but I cannot compare it to the Olympic victory. I was thinking I could improve my personal best, which was close to the world record, but I was not thinking about breaking it.”

 

For all these results, the member of Dukla Praha army sports club was promoted to First Lieutenant by the Czech Army in September 2008 and rewarded as the best Czech sportsperson of the year in January 2009.

 

Spotakova is not concerned what the future may hold for her beyond her life as an athlete. “Athletics was not my priority, even two years ago,” she said in 2008. “I have always studied and I already got a university degree. It is better when you do also something else than only athletics. Only athletics would not be enough for me.” Thus, in May 2009, the Olympic champion successfully finished a master degree at the Czech University of Agrobiology in Prague, field of study - Living environment.

 

Due to all the formal duties, the Czech superstar felt exhausted at the beginning of 2009. Fortunately, popular Spotakova managed to handle it very well. The Josef Odlozil memorial in Prague in early June was very productive, and Barbora improved her season best to 68.23. Later, she traditionally attended the Ostrava Golden Spike meeting, where she took third place with 65.92, and she improved this placing at the 1st European Team Championships in Leiria, finishing second with 65.89.

 

At the end of July 2009, Spotakova felt a bit tired after a hard preparation for the World Championships in Berlin, but still hoped she was able to tune up the fitness to defend the world title from Osaka 2007. “I am very satisfied with my performance in Monaco, but on the other hand, I feel very tired. I trained a lot. Even my elbow and my Achilles tendons are tired. Maybe I trained too much,” confessed the world record holder. Before her departure for Berlin, Barbora planned a training camp in Nymburk and then just a “crocodile week” when the athletes wait for the golden shape.

 

Bara, as friends call Barbora in Czech, knew how hard it would be to repeat the previous season. At the end of 2009 she also called it “the silver year”. Especially because of her silver medal at the World Championships in Berlin. Although she did not have her day in the German capital, she fought in the sector with her opponents. After the initial 64.94 from the first series, she posted the longest throw, 66.42 - unusually in the third series. "I did it, I'm happy. The medal is not bittersweet; each medal from the World Championships is valuable. It would be nice to be just golden all the time, but it is impossible always to win. It's a sport, and therefore people watch it," she said after the event. Still she managed to defend her victory from 2008 in the poll of Czech Athlete of the year, as the only Czech medallist from Berlin.

 

In 2010, Bara became an ambassador of the new athletic series – the IAAF Diamond League. Among her main achievements in the season belonged the victory in the Diamond Race. However, an elbow injury aggravated at the meeting in Monaco greatly limited the attack to gain the European champion title. In Barcelona, she took bronze for the performance of 65.36. "The most important for me is the fact I got a medal. I appreciate it a lot. The season was tough and since my elbow is not OK, I am happy. Every medal is a success. In my career, I've basically had no easy competition," she summarised.

At the end of the season, Barbora Spotakova announced a change of her coach; she turned from Rudolf Cerny to her idol, Jan Zelezny. She became also the best Czech athlete of the year for the fourth year in a row.

 

There were two main goals for the Czech world record holder in 2011 – to become a world champion and to win the Diamond League. With her new coach and colleagues from the training group – javelin throwers Petr Frydrych, Vitezslav Veselý, Jakub Vadlejch and Jarmila Klimesova, she spent two winter months in South Africa, even if she did not like it last time - eight years ago. “I decided to go there because my boyfriend Lukas Novotny could come to visit me for 10 days. So it was more acceptable for me,” she described.

 

The start of the season had to be postponed for Spotakova as she suffered intestinal problems. Barbora has always had the plan to qualify with the first attempt into the final and she fulfilled it at the Daegu World Championships, throwing 63.40. “I arrived very relaxed to the stadium and had a technically not very nice attempt. It was the hottest conditions I have ever competed in and I did not feel good. There must be a different Bara in the final if she wants to fight for medals,” she commented in Korea.

 

The final turned into one of the greatest battles in the history of women’s javelin throw. Despite posting the second longest throw in her career, 71.58, the world record holder achieved only silver on the hot August night. Russian Abakumova managed to improve in the fifth attempt to 71.99, the second furthest throw in history to win gold for Russia. But Spotakova’s amazing series (68.80 - 67.90 - 68.64 - 67.12 - 71.58 - 66.80) did not leave her disappointed and she enlarged her unique medal collection dating from Gothenburg 2006. “How can I describe it? It was a crazy but amazing competition; nobody would have expected such long throws. Frankly, in a few moments I was afraid for my world record. But my coach Jan Zelezny still believes I am able to throw even further. I was expecting throws around 70 metres here, so 71 is a great performance. Abakumova surprised me a lot, so it seems I would need to start to train for 73 metres,” she smiled confessing she did not expect to be second with 71 metres. “I really thought after my longest fifth attempt that I was the winner. But that was a mistake. It was a good lesson for the whole life.” Later, she called the race a “silver competition with golden fragrance”.

 

Only four days after the end of the championships in Korea, tired Spotakova was throwing in the Diamond League final, finishing fourth with 63.56. But she ended the long international season at the ISTAF meeting in Berlin on 11 September by winning with 67.14. “This competition was the nice end of this summer. The results are a promising sign for the Olympic season.”

 

Six seasons, six medals. That was the record of the Czech favourite before the London Games. The successful representation is important for Spotakova’s diplomatic future. At the end of October, she started her Olympic training and announced she felt healthy and ready. As agreed with Jan Zelezny, they did not count with participation at the European Championships, in Helsinki, and she focused on her main goal. But she did not miss the Diamond League meetings in Doha (second with 66.17), Rome (first with 68.65) and New York (finishing second with a solid (68.73). But the special competition came at IAAF World Challenge meeting in Ostrava on 25 May. In front of the friendly crowd, Spotakova managed to break the spell and won after four years of missing the top spot. Her 67.78 was the new Golden Spike meeting record.

 

“Javelin throw is a strange event. To feel good does not mean to throw well. But I can say that I had the best ever preparation for this season,” the beer-lover described her training prior to the Olympic summer. “I want to throw far in London. And if I throw over 70 meters, it also can turn to a gold medal,” said the 31-year-old Olympic champion from Beijing before arriving to London for her title defence.

 

Surprisingly, she managed to defend her Olympic title quite easily. Her winning throw 69.55 stayed the world´s leading mark and she also defended her Diamond trophy. “In 31, I only showed what I was trained for and it paid off. It feels strange how easy it was this time,” summarized Spotakova, who had a special plan for the end of the year. After she was rewarded the best Czech athlete for the sixth time in a row, she announced her pregnancy.

 

Spotakova´s son Jan was born on 24 May 2013 but the maternity leave did not last too long. Barbora decided to try throwing again already on 13 September at the local meeting in Domazlice. Her achievement 62.33 put her into the top 20 in the world that year and was significant sign of her shape despite the pregnancy break.

 

“I could not even dream about a better season,” the 33-year-old Spotakova smiled after her 2014 season. The first season as a mother was more than successful – Barbora won seven out of eight competitions and that led to her third Diamond trophy. She won her first competition of the season in Rome (66.43), Prague (64.08), European team Championships in Braunschweig (65.57) and then also in Lausanne (66.72) and Monaco (66.96), her favorite meetings. But in Zurich, she wanted her first European title too much.

 

The competition at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich did not look good at the beginning. Barbora had to fight with the technique and after the fourth series, it looked like she will not improve her silver from Göteborg 2006 and bronze from Barcelona 2008. But the temperament of a fighter showed in the fifth round, when she improved to 64.41 and secured the most wanted title. “I am glad that the mornings when I have to wake up at 5am with my little son and leave at 9am for the training paid off. I see that it has a sense and I hope I can continue till the next Olympics, which will be my last,” commented the fresh European champion after her arrival in Prague. “I heard my Janek crying during the final, so maybe that is the reason why it was not so easy for me this time.”

 

The 2014 Diamond league final in Brussels saw the “old Spotakova” again. 67.99 was the world leading mark and secured victory. “My comeback was very successful,” she said. “I am already looking forward to the Continental Cup in Marrakech and I hope I would be able to throw even farther than in Brussels.” 

 

And what is the motivation of an athlete who has already achieved almost all the greatest athletic honours? “I still think that it is possible to push the World record mark even further.”

 

Personal Bests

Javelin Throw: 72.28 m (2008) WR

 

Yearly Progression

2000: 54.15; 2001: 51.97, 2002: 56.76, 2003: 56.65; 2004: 60.95; 2005: 65.74; 2006: 66.21; 2007: 67.12; 2008: 72.28 WR; 2009: 68.23; 2010: 68.66; 2011: 71.58; 2012: 69.55; 2013: 62.33; 2014: 67.99

 

Career Highlights

2000  

4th

World Junior Championships (Heptathlon)

5689 pts

2002 

9qB

 European Championships (Munich)                          

51.71

2003

6th

European U23 Championships (Bydgoszcz)

56.65

2003     

4th  

World University Games (Daegu)                          

55.31

2004   

13qA 

Olympic Games (Athens)                                  

58.20

2005       

2nd

European Cup First League Group A (Gävl) e

59.74  

2005       

7qB

World Championships (Helsinki)                          

58.74

2005       

1st

World University Games (Izmir)                           

60.73

2005      

5th

World Athletics Final (Monte Carlo)                        

61.60

2006  

1st

European Cup First League Group A (Prague)   

64.68

2006  

2nd  

European Championships (Göteborg)               

65.64

2006 

1st    

World Athletics Final (Stuttgart)                              

66.21

2007        

1st

World Championships (Osaka)                                

67.07

2007        

1st

World Athletics Final (Stuttgart)                              

67.12

2008  

 1st

European Cup First League Group A (Leiria)    

63.79

2008 

1st  

Olympic Games (Beijing)                             

71.42 AR

2008  

1st

World Athletics Final (Stuttgart)   

72.28 WR

2009  

2nd

European Team Championships (Leiria)      

65.89

2009

2nd

World Championships (Berlin)

66.42

2009  

1st

world Athletics Final (Thessaloniki)   

63.45

2010

1st

European Team Championships First league (Budapest)

67.63

2010

3rd

European Championships (Barcelona)

65.36 (65.56 in Q)

2011

3rd  

European Team Championships Super League (Stockholm)

64.40

2011

2nd

World Championships (Daegu)

71.58

2012

1st

Olympic Games (London)

69.55

2014

1st

European Team Championships Super League (Braunschweig)

65.57

2014

1st

European Championships (Zurich)

64.41

 

Prepared by Zuzana Trojakova for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project.

Copyright IAAF 2008-2014


Personal Best - Outdoor
Performance Wind Place Date
100 Metres 12.99 +0.4 Talence 25 SEP 2004
200 Metres 25.33 -0.8 Oulu 01 JUL 2000
400 Metres 1:00.17 Talence 25 SEP 2004
800 Metres 2:18.29 Praha 23 JUL 2000
1500 Metres 6:01.61 Talence 26 SEP 2004
100 Metres Hurdles 13.99 Hexham 20 MAY 2000
400 Metres Hurdles 1:02.68 01 JAN 1998
High Jump 1.78 Hexham 20 MAY 2000
Pole Vault 2.60 Talence 26 SEP 2004
Long Jump 5.65 +0.8 Oulu 02 JUL 2000
Shot Put 14.53 Sušice 08 SEP 2007
Discus Throw 36.80 01 JAN 2002
Javelin Throw 72.28 Stuttgart 13 SEP 2008
Heptathlon 5880 Talence 16 SEP 2012
Decathlon 6749 Talence 26 SEP 2004
Personal Best - Indoor
Performance Wind Place Date
200 Metres 25.36 Praha (Stromovka) 28 JAN 2007
60 Metres Hurdles 8.73 Praha (Stromovka) 02 FEB 2008
Progression - Outdoor showShow All Graphs
100 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Wind Place Date
2004 12.99 +0.4 Talence 25 SEP
200 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Wind Place Date
2012 25.50 -1.0 Talence 15 SEP
2000 25.33 -0.8 Oulu 01 JUL
400 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2004 1:00.17 Talence 25 SEP
800 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2012 2:28.31 Talence 16 SEP
2000 2:18.29 Praha 23 JUL
1500 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2004 6:01.61 Talence 26 SEP
100 Metres Hurdles Show Graphshow
Performance Wind Place Date
2012 14.66 +1.5 Talence 15 SEP
2000 13.99 Hexham 20 MAY
400 Metres Hurdles Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
1998 1:02.68 01 JAN
High Jump Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2012 1.76 Talence 15 SEP
2000 1.78 Hexham 20 MAY
Pole Vault Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2004 2.60 Talence 26 SEP
Long Jump Show Graphshow
Performance Wind Place Date
2012 5.44 +1.4 Talence 16 SEP
2000 5.65 +0.8 Oulu 02 JUL
Shot Put Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2012 13.42 Talence 15 SEP
2011 12.64 Stockholm 19 JUN
2008 14.47 Praha 07 JUN
2007 14.53 Sušice 08 SEP
2005 14.04 Ostrava 03 SEP
2004 13.76 Moskva 30 MAY
2000 13.99 Santiago de Chile 20 OCT
Discus Throw Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2002 36.80 01 JAN
Javelin Throw Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2014 67.99 Bruxelles 05 SEP
2013 62.33 Domažlice 13 SEP
2012 69.55 London (OP) 09 AUG
2011 71.58 Daegu 02 SEP
2010 68.66 Roma (Stadio Olimpico) 10 JUN
2009 68.23 Praha (Stadion Juliska) 08 JUN
2008 72.28 Stuttgart 13 SEP
2007 67.12 Stuttgart 22 SEP
2006 66.21 Stuttgart 09 SEP
2005 65.74 Ústí nad Labem 25 SEP
2004 60.95 Tel Aviv 05 JUL
2003 56.65 Bydgoszcz 19 JUL
2002 56.76 Ostrava 21 JUL
2001 51.97 01 JAN
2000 54.15 Santiago de Chile 21 OCT
1999 41.69 01 JAN
Heptathlon Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2012 5880 Talence 16 SEP
2000 5873 Praha 23 JUL
Decathlon Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2004 6749 Talence 26 SEP
Progression - Indoor showShow All Graphs
200 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Wind Place Date
2007 25.36 Praha (Stromovka) 28 JAN
2006 25.49 Praha (Stromovka) 21 FEB
2005 26.18 Praha (Stromovka) 01 FEB
60 Metres Hurdles Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2010 8.91 Praha (Stromovka) 07 FEB
2009 8.99 Praha (Stromovka) 10 FEB
2008 8.73 Praha (Stromovka) 02 FEB
2007 8.85 Praha (Stromovka) 28 JAN
Honours - Javelin Throw
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
2nd IAAF Continental Cup 2014 1 65.52 Marrakech (Le Grande Stade) 13 SEP 2014
The XXX Olympic Games 1 69.55 London (OP) 09 AUG 2012
13th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 2 71.58 Daegu 02 SEP 2011
IAAF/VTB Bank World Athletics Final 2 63.45 Thessaloníki 12 SEP 2009
12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 2 66.42 Berlin (Olympiastadion) 18 AUG 2009
6th IAAF/VTB Bank World Athletics Final 1 72.28 Stuttgart 13 SEP 2008
The XXIX Olympic Games 1 71.42 Beijing (National Stadium) 21 AUG 2008
5th IAAF World Athletics Final 1 67.12 Stuttgart 22 SEP 2007
11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 1 67.07 Osaka (Nagai Stadium) 31 AUG 2007
4th IAAF World Athletics Final 1 66.21 Stuttgart 09 SEP 2006
3rd IAAF World Athletics Final 5 61.60 Monaco (Stade Louis II) 09 SEP 2005
10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 7q2 58.74 Helsinki 12 AUG 2005
28th Olympic Games 13q1 58.20 Athína (Olympic Stadium) 25 AUG 2004
Honours - Heptathlon
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
IAAF/Coca Cola World Junior Championships 4 5689 Santiago de Chile 21 OCT 2000

Focus on Athletes biographies are produced by the IAAF Communications Dept, and not by the IAAF Statistics and Documentation Division. If you have any enquiries concerning the information, please use the Contact IAAF page, selecting ‘Focus on Athletes Biographies’ in the drop down menu of contact area options.


Updated 9 September 2014

 

Barbora SPOTAKOVA, Czech Republic (Javelin Throw)

Born: 30 June 1981, Jablonec nad Nisou

1.82m / 79kg

Coach: Jan Zelezny

Club:  Dukla Praha, (Army Sports Club in Prague)


 

Barbora Spotakova, the 2007 World, 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion, 2014 European champion and the current world record holder in the javelin, was a heptathlete in her early career. Her first major selection was for the 2000 World Junior Championships, in Santiago, Chile, where she finished fourth (5689 points). But she has focused on the javelin throw since 2004 after being encouraged to do so by a Bahaman coach during her American studies at the University of Minnesota, and by the javelin legend, Jan Zelezny. “Try javelin,” Zelezny, the men’s world record holder, from her home country, told Spotakova.

 

Spotakova had started in athletics at school, in Jablonec nad Nisou, where she was led mostly by her mother, Ludmila Spotakova. Barbora considers this period of her life very important. “I was not pushed into anything and nothing was lost, I got all-sports basics,” she said. Together with her mother she moved to the Czech capital, where she attended a Grammar school focused on sports.

 

In the school, where most top Czech athletes have studied, she tended towards the hurdles under the leadership of a coach Petr Cech. In 1999, she started to train regularly for combined event competitions, which suited her versatile talent. After her success in Chile, Spotakova decided to study in the USA for a while.

 

At 21, Spotakova got the first chance to perform at her first big senior meeting, the European Championships, in Munich, in 2002. The Czech federation chose to send young athletes who had reached the qualification standard for U23 championships. Spotakova was picked for the javelin even though she did not start to concentrate on it until towards the end of 2003.

 

Surgery in the autumn of 2003 to remove a benign tumour would be followed by two seasons with a painful knee. However, as 2003 drew towards a close, Zelezny advised her to pay more attention to the javelin and he invited her to a training camp in South Africa in the spring of 2004.

 

Spotakova did not leave combined events easily. In 2004, she tried decathlon just for fun at the end of season, and achieved 6749 points in Talence. At the 2004 Athens Olympics, the athlete, whose personal best for heptathlon is 5873 points (in 2000 in Prague), did not yet draw attention to herself as a javelin thrower. She was eliminated in the qualifying round.

Apart from Nikola Brejchova, the best female Czech javelin thrower at that time, almost nobody paid attention to Spotakova. A similar scenario was repeated at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, where the gate to the final closed on Spotakova, as she finished seventh in her group and 13th overall in qualifying. However, in September 2005, she added 1.66m to her PB (65.74) in the Czech city of Usti nad Labem

 

The most interesting part of Spotakova’s career started symbolically in the year when Jan Zelezny ended his brilliant career. The “era of Zelezny” finished and the “era of Spotakova” began. One of the measures of athletics immortality is the Olympic Games. Would a new Dana Zatopkova (the nation’s last women’s champion in 1952) be born at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing?

 

The athlete, who was coached by Rudolf Cerny at that time, improved the Czech record three times during the 2006 season and lost only 5 of 17 competitions. She achieved 6 of the 10 longest throws, including a Czech record (66.12) in the qualifying round of the European Championships in Gothenburg. In the final, she was second (65.64), 23cm behind Germany’s Steffi Nerius.

 

However, Spotakova avenged the defeat at the World Athletics Final, in Stuttgart, with a winning 66.21, another national record. At the end of the year, she received an offer to become a professional member of the Czech army. She agreed and became a Chief Warrant Officer.

  

Spotakova improved her national record twice in the final of the 2007 World Championships, in Osaka. She threw 66.40 in the first round to lead and 67.07 to secure the gold medal. Barbora became the seventh woman in the world to reach 67m. She then improved this mark to 67.12. The year was rounded off when Spotakova took the title of the best 2007 Czech athlete, defeating Roman Sebrle, and was second among all Czech sportsmen and women.

 

In 2008, Spotakova rose to N.4 on the all-time list, improving the Czech record to 69.15 in Zaragoza on 31 May. That mark led the year’s Top Lists going into the Olympics and she also had the second best distance after throwing 68.81 on 16 June, in front of her home crowd at 15th Josef Odlozil Memorial in Prague.  “The Olympic gold will take 70 metres,” said the 27-year-old Czech medal hope.

 

Barbora did not let anyone doubt her dominant position in the Olympic javelin throw final. On 21 August 2008, after a thrilling competition where Russian Mariya Abakumova led the event till the last round, Spotakova became an Olympic champion achieving the European record of 71.42 in the sixth round. Spotakova started the battle with a new national record, 69.22, but Abakumova was already 10 centimetres further. “I have always been saying: one day I was going to win with a beautiful last attempt. And now it happened at the Olympics,” the fresh Olympic champion confessed. “This is the most beautiful day of my life. I am not able to describe what I feel. It is a great continuation of Czech javelin tradition.”

 

But this was not the end of her achievements in that Olympic year. The World Athletics Final in Stuttgart was the place where Spotakova broke the world record to continue the famous Czech javelin throw history of Dana Zatopkova and Jan Zelezny. 72.28 was the mark of the “Queen of the first round”, as they call Barbora for mostly achieving the best first attempts, which she confirmed also in Stuttgart. “It is a wonderful feeling to break the world record, but I cannot compare it to the Olympic victory. I was thinking I could improve my personal best, which was close to the world record, but I was not thinking about breaking it.”

 

For all these results, the member of Dukla Praha army sports club was promoted to First Lieutenant by the Czech Army in September 2008 and rewarded as the best Czech sportsperson of the year in January 2009.

 

Spotakova is not concerned what the future may hold for her beyond her life as an athlete. “Athletics was not my priority, even two years ago,” she said in 2008. “I have always studied and I already got a university degree. It is better when you do also something else than only athletics. Only athletics would not be enough for me.” Thus, in May 2009, the Olympic champion successfully finished a master degree at the Czech University of Agrobiology in Prague, field of study - Living environment.

 

Due to all the formal duties, the Czech superstar felt exhausted at the beginning of 2009. Fortunately, popular Spotakova managed to handle it very well. The Josef Odlozil memorial in Prague in early June was very productive, and Barbora improved her season best to 68.23. Later, she traditionally attended the Ostrava Golden Spike meeting, where she took third place with 65.92, and she improved this placing at the 1st European Team Championships in Leiria, finishing second with 65.89.

 

At the end of July 2009, Spotakova felt a bit tired after a hard preparation for the World Championships in Berlin, but still hoped she was able to tune up the fitness to defend the world title from Osaka 2007. “I am very satisfied with my performance in Monaco, but on the other hand, I feel very tired. I trained a lot. Even my elbow and my Achilles tendons are tired. Maybe I trained too much,” confessed the world record holder. Before her departure for Berlin, Barbora planned a training camp in Nymburk and then just a “crocodile week” when the athletes wait for the golden shape.

 

Bara, as friends call Barbora in Czech, knew how hard it would be to repeat the previous season. At the end of 2009 she also called it “the silver year”. Especially because of her silver medal at the World Championships in Berlin. Although she did not have her day in the German capital, she fought in the sector with her opponents. After the initial 64.94 from the first series, she posted the longest throw, 66.42 - unusually in the third series. "I did it, I'm happy. The medal is not bittersweet; each medal from the World Championships is valuable. It would be nice to be just golden all the time, but it is impossible always to win. It's a sport, and therefore people watch it," she said after the event. Still she managed to defend her victory from 2008 in the poll of Czech Athlete of the year, as the only Czech medallist from Berlin.

 

In 2010, Bara became an ambassador of the new athletic series – the IAAF Diamond League. Among her main achievements in the season belonged the victory in the Diamond Race. However, an elbow injury aggravated at the meeting in Monaco greatly limited the attack to gain the European champion title. In Barcelona, she took bronze for the performance of 65.36. "The most important for me is the fact I got a medal. I appreciate it a lot. The season was tough and since my elbow is not OK, I am happy. Every medal is a success. In my career, I've basically had no easy competition," she summarised.

At the end of the season, Barbora Spotakova announced a change of her coach; she turned from Rudolf Cerny to her idol, Jan Zelezny. She became also the best Czech athlete of the year for the fourth year in a row.

 

There were two main goals for the Czech world record holder in 2011 – to become a world champion and to win the Diamond League. With her new coach and colleagues from the training group – javelin throwers Petr Frydrych, Vitezslav Veselý, Jakub Vadlejch and Jarmila Klimesova, she spent two winter months in South Africa, even if she did not like it last time - eight years ago. “I decided to go there because my boyfriend Lukas Novotny could come to visit me for 10 days. So it was more acceptable for me,” she described.

 

The start of the season had to be postponed for Spotakova as she suffered intestinal problems. Barbora has always had the plan to qualify with the first attempt into the final and she fulfilled it at the Daegu World Championships, throwing 63.40. “I arrived very relaxed to the stadium and had a technically not very nice attempt. It was the hottest conditions I have ever competed in and I did not feel good. There must be a different Bara in the final if she wants to fight for medals,” she commented in Korea.

 

The final turned into one of the greatest battles in the history of women’s javelin throw. Despite posting the second longest throw in her career, 71.58, the world record holder achieved only silver on the hot August night. Russian Abakumova managed to improve in the fifth attempt to 71.99, the second furthest throw in history to win gold for Russia. But Spotakova’s amazing series (68.80 - 67.90 - 68.64 - 67.12 - 71.58 - 66.80) did not leave her disappointed and she enlarged her unique medal collection dating from Gothenburg 2006. “How can I describe it? It was a crazy but amazing competition; nobody would have expected such long throws. Frankly, in a few moments I was afraid for my world record. But my coach Jan Zelezny still believes I am able to throw even further. I was expecting throws around 70 metres here, so 71 is a great performance. Abakumova surprised me a lot, so it seems I would need to start to train for 73 metres,” she smiled confessing she did not expect to be second with 71 metres. “I really thought after my longest fifth attempt that I was the winner. But that was a mistake. It was a good lesson for the whole life.” Later, she called the race a “silver competition with golden fragrance”.

 

Only four days after the end of the championships in Korea, tired Spotakova was throwing in the Diamond League final, finishing fourth with 63.56. But she ended the long international season at the ISTAF meeting in Berlin on 11 September by winning with 67.14. “This competition was the nice end of this summer. The results are a promising sign for the Olympic season.”

 

Six seasons, six medals. That was the record of the Czech favourite before the London Games. The successful representation is important for Spotakova’s diplomatic future. At the end of October, she started her Olympic training and announced she felt healthy and ready. As agreed with Jan Zelezny, they did not count with participation at the European Championships, in Helsinki, and she focused on her main goal. But she did not miss the Diamond League meetings in Doha (second with 66.17), Rome (first with 68.65) and New York (finishing second with a solid (68.73). But the special competition came at IAAF World Challenge meeting in Ostrava on 25 May. In front of the friendly crowd, Spotakova managed to break the spell and won after four years of missing the top spot. Her 67.78 was the new Golden Spike meeting record.

 

“Javelin throw is a strange event. To feel good does not mean to throw well. But I can say that I had the best ever preparation for this season,” the beer-lover described her training prior to the Olympic summer. “I want to throw far in London. And if I throw over 70 meters, it also can turn to a gold medal,” said the 31-year-old Olympic champion from Beijing before arriving to London for her title defence.

 

Surprisingly, she managed to defend her Olympic title quite easily. Her winning throw 69.55 stayed the world´s leading mark and she also defended her Diamond trophy. “In 31, I only showed what I was trained for and it paid off. It feels strange how easy it was this time,” summarized Spotakova, who had a special plan for the end of the year. After she was rewarded the best Czech athlete for the sixth time in a row, she announced her pregnancy.

 

Spotakova´s son Jan was born on 24 May 2013 but the maternity leave did not last too long. Barbora decided to try throwing again already on 13 September at the local meeting in Domazlice. Her achievement 62.33 put her into the top 20 in the world that year and was significant sign of her shape despite the pregnancy break.

 

“I could not even dream about a better season,” the 33-year-old Spotakova smiled after her 2014 season. The first season as a mother was more than successful – Barbora won seven out of eight competitions and that led to her third Diamond trophy. She won her first competition of the season in Rome (66.43), Prague (64.08), European team Championships in Braunschweig (65.57) and then also in Lausanne (66.72) and Monaco (66.96), her favorite meetings. But in Zurich, she wanted her first European title too much.

 

The competition at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich did not look good at the beginning. Barbora had to fight with the technique and after the fourth series, it looked like she will not improve her silver from Göteborg 2006 and bronze from Barcelona 2008. But the temperament of a fighter showed in the fifth round, when she improved to 64.41 and secured the most wanted title. “I am glad that the mornings when I have to wake up at 5am with my little son and leave at 9am for the training paid off. I see that it has a sense and I hope I can continue till the next Olympics, which will be my last,” commented the fresh European champion after her arrival in Prague. “I heard my Janek crying during the final, so maybe that is the reason why it was not so easy for me this time.”

 

The 2014 Diamond league final in Brussels saw the “old Spotakova” again. 67.99 was the world leading mark and secured victory. “My comeback was very successful,” she said. “I am already looking forward to the Continental Cup in Marrakech and I hope I would be able to throw even farther than in Brussels.” 

 

And what is the motivation of an athlete who has already achieved almost all the greatest athletic honours? “I still think that it is possible to push the World record mark even further.”

 

Personal Bests

Javelin Throw: 72.28 m (2008) WR

 

Yearly Progression

2000: 54.15; 2001: 51.97, 2002: 56.76, 2003: 56.65; 2004: 60.95; 2005: 65.74; 2006: 66.21; 2007: 67.12; 2008: 72.28 WR; 2009: 68.23; 2010: 68.66; 2011: 71.58; 2012: 69.55; 2013: 62.33; 2014: 67.99

 

Career Highlights

2000  

4th

World Junior Championships (Heptathlon)

5689 pts

2002 

9qB

 European Championships (Munich)                          

51.71

2003

6th

European U23 Championships (Bydgoszcz)

56.65

2003     

4th  

World University Games (Daegu)                          

55.31

2004   

13qA 

Olympic Games (Athens)                                  

58.20

2005       

2nd

European Cup First League Group A (Gävl) e

59.74  

2005       

7qB

World Championships (Helsinki)                          

58.74

2005       

1st

World University Games (Izmir)                           

60.73

2005      

5th

World Athletics Final (Monte Carlo)                        

61.60

2006  

1st

European Cup First League Group A (Prague)   

64.68

2006  

2nd  

European Championships (Göteborg)               

65.64

2006 

1st    

World Athletics Final (Stuttgart)                              

66.21

2007        

1st

World Championships (Osaka)                                

67.07

2007        

1st

World Athletics Final (Stuttgart)                              

67.12

2008  

 1st

European Cup First League Group A (Leiria)    

63.79

2008 

1st  

Olympic Games (Beijing)                             

71.42 AR

2008  

1st

World Athletics Final (Stuttgart)   

72.28 WR

2009  

2nd

European Team Championships (Leiria)      

65.89

2009

2nd

World Championships (Berlin)

66.42

2009  

1st

world Athletics Final (Thessaloniki)   

63.45

2010

1st

European Team Championships First league (Budapest)

67.63

2010

3rd

European Championships (Barcelona)

65.36 (65.56 in Q)

2011

3rd  

European Team Championships Super League (Stockholm)

64.40

2011

2nd

World Championships (Daegu)

71.58

2012

1st

Olympic Games (London)

69.55

2014

1st

European Team Championships Super League (Braunschweig)

65.57

2014

1st

European Championships (Zurich)

64.41

 

Prepared by Zuzana Trojakova for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project.

Copyright IAAF 2008-2014