Consistent throughout the season and possessing four of the year’s top six throws, it was nevertheless a slight surprise that Vitezslav Vesely claimed the gold medal in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Saturday night.
Despite winning the European title last summer, the 30-year-old Czech missed the podium at both the London 2012 Olympic Games and the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, finishing fourth on both occasions.
History is also filled with athletes who have not come through when it counted, especially after dominating a season.
However, throwing eighth in the 12-man field, the native of Hodonin stunned the crowd – and Finland’s Tero Pitkamaki – with a first-round throw of 87.17m.
The mark would stand through five rounds of competition though, to hear him speak, he didn’t endure the tension that would envelope most athletes riding in the pole position.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” he would say later.
“I was thinking about the competition and trying to focus on myself. The first throw was enough and I won. I wasn’t thinking about him (Pitkamaki) or about his throws; I was thinking about my technique because I was thinking it couldn’t be enough, but it was enough and I am glad.
“Before the competition I knew, from my side, it will be long throws. I wasn’t training for 14 days. I knew if it was a long competition, I would not have so much power for the whole time, so it was enough with the first throw.”
Fourteen years ago he moved to Prague and joined the Army Sports Club there. As he matured, he improved, but also suffered the injuries to joints which plague many javelin throwers and contemplated quitting the sport.
In 2006, he was introduced to Jan Zelezny, the World record-holder and three-time Olympic champion, who was looking to get into coaching full time. After a meeting, he agreed to coach Vesely who, in turn, gave himself one last chance at having a career in the sport.
The athlete chooses his words carefully when he is asked how important Zelezny has been to his career.
“If it wasn’t for Jan Zelezny, I wouldn’t be sitting here now,” declared Vesely. “Because he restarted my career when he decided to be a trainer after his great career. His work has created the fruit.”
On the way to the stadium, Zelezny was particularly helpful in dispensing advice for the final.
“I was focusing on my run-up because I did a big throw in the qualification two days ago and had an extra step,” he explained. “It was very far and I knew that I must do something similar if that worked, so we were talking about that technique. They were his last words before the competition.”
Zelezny has helped Vesely immensely with his technique quite apart from motivating him to follow in his footsteps and become the best in the world.
As for his consistency in 2013, he has a simple and logical explanation.
“I think it was caused by me being healthy,” said Vesely. “Unfortunately before these championships it changed. I had some problems with my left knee. Also before Monaco (where he threw his season's best of 87.68m), I hurt a muscle. I wasn’t so good in my mind and I was thinking that I could not do it, but I think that since 2012 I have found a way how to throw and now I can throw confidently.”
At present, the new World champion is also leading the Diamond Race competition with 14 points to Pitkamaki’s eight, so he has no plans to celebrate wildly his title at this time.
“Celebration? I think there will be something but not too much,” he said with a smile. “I don’t celebrate too much when I have competitions.”
Paul Gains for the IAAF