Libor Charfreitag in Uberlandia (Bruno Miani/CBAt) © Copyright
Libor CHARFREITAG, Slovakia (Hammer Throw)
Born: 11 September 1977, Trnava
1.91m / 110kg
Lives: Trnava (with his family in summer), Dallas, Texas (remainder of year)
Coaches: Libor Charfreitag Sr. and Dave Wollman
Club: Slávia Trnava
Studied at Southern Methodist University, United States - Bachelor
Works as an assistant coach at the Southern Methodist University
One of the most famous athletes of Slovakia, 32-year-old Libor Charfreitag comes from an athletics family. His mother, Eva, used to compete at Discus Throw and Shot Put and his father, also named Libor, was a Discus and Hammer thrower. He even still works as one of Libor’s two coaches.
This family constellation was surely one of the factors that have influenced the life of the Trnava’s native. “Since early childhood, I have been going to the athletics stadium with my father and, step by step, I started to train for athletics,” Charfreitag said. “The first events I have tried to compete in seriously were the 60m, Long Jump and cricket-ball throw. Then I tried Shot Put and I started Discus and Hammer Throw when I was a bit older.”
It was not coincidence that Libor’s sister Eva, two years younger, has been a top Slovak Hammer thrower too and studies economics at the Southern Methodist University, in Texas, just like her more famous brother. The second sister Radka, who died after illness, was a Shot Put finalist at the European Junior Championships in 1993. (She is still 5th in the Slovak all-time rankings).
The five-time winner of the “Slovak Athlete of the year” vote spends a big part of his time on American ground. He trains and lives in Dallas, where he cooperates with coach Dave Wollman, who, together with his father, created a famous successful athlete out of him. “Wherever my coach goes, I go with him,” Charfreitag said. He left for the United States in 1997 and has never regretted the decision. Libor likes America. It is large, just like him, and he likes the wide streets and lifestyle.
The Dallas Faculty of Economics graduate is a strong-minded, deliberate young man, who can fully concentrate on his performance. Despite his studies, he did not plan to teach at the university. “I do not like books,” Charfreitag admitted. “When I have enough time, I would rather go to the cinema.” From the older generation, he admires the technique of the World record holder, Yuriy Sedykh. But his idols are also the recent competitors – especially his friend, 2004 Olympic champion Koji Murofushi.
Charfreitag began to gain ground in the junior categories when he started to study in the United States. He became a five time American Universities champion in the Hammer Throw and, in 1999, finished fifth at the European U23 Championships, in Göteborg. In the same year, he performed at World Championships for the first time but did not reach the Final. The following year brought his Olympic debut. However, he finished only 30th in qualification. He would do better in Athens four years later.
In 2003 Charfreitag threw over 80 metres for the first time. In June 2003, at the meeting in Prague, he threw 81.81 – his personal best and Slovak National record. However, his third World Championship, in Paris 2003, was not successful. He finished 13th, falling 4 centimetres short of a place in the Final with his weakest competition (76.52) of his 17 that year.
“I should be able to explain my failure but I cannot. I am sorry,” Charfreitag said in a brief comment at the Stade de France. However, it was not long before he confirmed his worth in the elite group of Hammer throwing, when he qualified for the World Athletics Final, in Szombately, Hungary, and finished second (81.22).
The following years were like a bitter-sweet melody. Good results interchanged with bad ones. The Olympic Games, in Athens 2004, were much more pleasant than Sydney for Charfreitag. He qualified into the Final and took seventh place (77.54). Up to the 2007 World Championships, in Osaka, it was his best placing. He must have hoped for more at the 2005 World Championships, in Helsinki, when he finished ninth (76.05).
2006 did not bring much happiness to Charfreitag’s life. In fact, it was proof of his patience and endurance. He designated it as the toughest year of his career. The 80 metres border seemed unreachable. His best achievement was 78.04. “I got health problems and I could not get out of it,” Charfreitag said. “I tried everything – to train more or not to train. But nothing worked. It was very frustrating.”
Charfreitag did not qualify into the Final of the European Championships, in Göteborg. He was weak and suffered from stomach aches. The hammer seemed to be heavier in his hands and flew only into 74.13. After the horror season, he moved quickly to Dallas and underwent many medical examinations. For the first time he flew for the training camp in the Republic of South Africa, where many Czech and Slovak top athletes used to move to avoid cold winters.
“I needed a change. I started to do the things I hated before,” said Charfreitag. “I did running and changed my eating habits.” In the US, he says, he often has to explain what Hammer throwing is.
In 2007 Charfreitag arrived to Osaka for the World Championships as the fifth best Hammer thrower in the world rankings that year. After he qualified for the Final, he threw 81.60m in the fifth round and improved from third to second place. However, in the end, he had to settle for the bronze medal as Ivan Tikhon, from Belarus, improved his performance in the last series with a winning 83.63.
For Charfreitag, it was his second best achievement in his life and he added 73 centimetres to his 2007 best performance. “It was very hard competition, especially because I started with a fault,” he said. “Personally, I hoped for even better throw. But the most important thing is that I got a medal. It was the first time in the history of the World Championships that it was necessary to throw so far to get bronze medal.”
The Slovak athlete, whose best previous result was his seventh place from the 2004 Olympics, donated the medal to his mother, Eva, who was supporting him at home in Trnava and had her birthday the day after the Final. “I think she could not get a better present from me,” smiled the 12 times Slovak record breaker. Usually, as a former athlete, Eva would travel with Libor to all important championships but they could not afford to travel the distance to Osaka.
Charfreitag´s bronze was only the second medal for Slovakia at the World Championships since the birth of the Slovak Republic in 1993. It came 10 years after Igor Kovac won bronze in the 110m Hurdles at the 1997 World Championships in Athens, the was the first big success for the small country of 5 million inhabitants. The Hammer thrower from Trnava passed the 80 metres barrier 8 times during the season.
Of course, Charfreitag was one of the greatest Slovak medal hopes for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He started the preparation for the Olympic season traditionally in Dallas and then moved home to Slovakia for the summer period. At an early season competition in May, in Walnut, California, he wanted to break 80 metres but finally won with 79,46. Self-confident Charfreitag, who thinks the Japanese hammers are the best and is very satisfied with the one he bought for 650 dollars, did not break the 80m barrier in the Olympic Final. With 78.65, he had to be satisfied with eighth place.
“I feel that the period when I could use all I have learned and trained for is coming. They say that first six years after the 30th year of a Hammer thrower are the best for him. The technique is getting stable, the man is physically matured and has lots of experience. And what I will do when I quit? I do not know. I will think about it when it comes,” said Charfreitag already in 2008 not knowing the hard year 2009 was waiting for him.
In 2009, the borreliosis returned and the Osaka medalist felt very weak. He took only 10th place at the World Championships in Berlin (72.63m) and it was no surprise for him. Due to his health problems, he expected only a best placement in the top 12.
In 2010, Chafreitag seemed to become a different person – satisfied, in good mood and self confident. However, the year did not start well, when he got beaten in February for the first time after 9 years at Findlay Indoor Track & Field Open. In a Weight throw competition, A. G. Kruger managed 39cm more than Charfreitag´s 23.76m.
“I feel like I was 10 years younger,” stated the Slovak athlete at the beginning of the season, in April 2010, a week after he managed a great 80.59m throw in American city of Walnut to become the world leader. After two tough years filled with health problems, when he was not able to perform exactly as he wanted, it finally looked like he was back in top shape. “All my tests are better now – not only throwing but also weight lifting, running, jumping.” Libor had many problems that hindered him in achieving a better performance. “I had infected tonsils, which caused pain in the joints and even moved to the kidney. I had infected teeth that had to be torn. I also had Helicobacter in the stomach, increased level of Lyme borreliosis and higher blood pressure. I hope I got over it. I feel more energy and strength. I do not wake up with pain in my joints and I am not tired anymore,” he described.
Charfreitag, who likes to eat everything except Slovak national food - sheep cheese dumplings - came to the Catalan metropolis for the European Championships with the world leading position from Walnut and had managed to break 78 meters already another 3 times at that time – at the Slovak Championships in Nitra (78.86) gaining his 12th national title and at the meetings in Madrid (78.40) and Warsaw (78.01). The athlete from Trnava completed final preparations for the Barcelona Championships in the small Estonian town of Karksi Nuia and in Tallinn and trained together with top Estonian throwers - shot putter Taavi Peetre, and discus throwers Margus Hunt and Aleksandr Tammert.
On the second day of European Championship, in Barcelona, Slovak athletics achieved historical gold medal. Libor Charfreitag had managed to qualify for the Final with his first qualifications throw of 77.70m and confirmed he was really in shape. Supported by his parents, sitting in the Barcelona crowd, in the second attempt in the Final, he sent the Hammer to a distance of 80.02 mA single attempt over 80m in the competition was enough to gain historic gold for Slovakia. It was the first and the most precious medal for a Slovak athlete at the European Championship after 20 years and a premiere medal in the era of independence after five medals within federal Czechoslovakia. Charfreitag registered only three valid attempts in the Final, while he skipped the last throw. The Barcelona series was: 75.50-80.02 - x - x - 77.29 - n.
"It's an indescribable feeling, which in the dictionary of the Slovak language probably will not find any expression. Gold is counted, recorded in history," he declared after the victorious evening in Spain. " Unfortunately, technically it was not excellent performance, but this time it does not matter because I won. The Barcelona title itself is reward for the years of hard work and sacrifices. I'm very glad it finally came. I can say I dedicate the title to myself," smiled almost the 2-meters tall athlete. The Hungarian team protested against his winning throw, saying he had stepped out of the circle. The appeal was rejected, however, as the judges analysed the videos and ruled his throw as valid.
32-year-old Charfreitag, in his eighth major Final in the senior category achieved the second medal success after Osaka in 2007 and that Wednesday evening he confirmed the world leading position. "Now I know what other athletes mean after big victories, when they say that they still do not fully understand what they have achieved. For me it occurs only gradually, but it's a very nice feeling," he confessed.
Even before the European Championships, the fresh bronze medallist from the IAAF World Hammer Throw Challenge, who currently volunteers as an assistant throws coach for the Mustangs when not competing, stated that he would fight for first two places because his target was to participate the Continental Cup on 4-5 September. "It's a great honor for me because a man has only one or two chances in a career to put on the vest of Europe, since this event is held only once every four years. Certainly, I will strive to achieve the best possible placement in Split and possibly win," he said firmly. After a runner, Robert Stefko, in London 1994, Libor Charfreitag is only the second Slovak athlete to represent Europe at this continental contest.
The last copetition in the summer for Libor Charfreitag will be the Slovak Team Championships in Trnava, on 15 September, where he will compete not only at the hammer throw but also in the shot put. "I have a personal best of 17.27 (indoor) from 2000, when I used to earn some points for Dallas University. If I train now a bit, I venture to pass the 16 meters.”
Hammer Throw: 81.81 (2003)
1998: 72.30, 1999: 75.18; 2000: 77.22; 2001: 77.65; 2002: 79.20, 2003: 81.81; 2004:79.84; 2005:80.85; 2006:78.04; 2007:81.60; 2008: 80.45, 2009: 78.81, 2010: 80.59.
1999 8th World University Games (Palma de Mallorca) 75.18m
1999 5th European U23 Championships (Göteborg) 72.82m
1999 17th q World Championships (Sevilla) 70.20m
2000 30th q Olympic Games (Sydney) 72.52m
2001 10th q World Championships (Edmonton) 75.29m
2001 10th World University Games (Beijing) 60.49m
2002 7th European Championships 79.20m
2003 13th World Championships (Paris) 76.52m
2003 2nd World Athletics Final (Szombathely) 81.22m
2004 7th Olympic Games (Athens) 77.54m
2004 5th World Athletics Final (Szombathely) 76.99m
2005 9th World Championships (Helsinki) 76.05m
2005 3rd World Athletics Final (Szombathely) 76.59m
2006 1st European Cup Second League Group A 78.04m
2006 6th q European Championships (Göteborg) 74.13m
2007 3rd World Championships (Osaka), 81.60m
2007 7th World Athletics Final (Stuttgart) 75.89m
2008 1st European Cup Second League Group A 79.56m
2008 8th Olympic Games (Beijing) 78.65m
2009 10th World Championships (Berlin), 72.63m
2010 1st European Athletics Championships (Barcelona) 80.02m
Prepared by Zuzana Trojakova for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008-2010
- Libor Charfreitag in Uberlandia (Bruno Miani/CBAt) © Copyright
- Libor Charfreitag of Slovakia (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Libor Charfreitag in action (IAAF) © Copyright
- Silver medalist Primoz Kozmus of Slovenia, gold medalist Ivan Tsikhan of Belarus and bronze medalist Libor Charfreitag of Slovakia pose on the podium after receiving their medals in the Men's Hammer Throw Final (Getty Images) © Copyright