Created 28 July 2012
Vitezslav VESELY, Czech Republic (Javelin Throw)
Born: 27 February 1983, Hodonín
Coach: Jan Zelezny
Club: Dukla Praha (Army Sport Group in Prague)
Some people call him a philosopher because of his quiet and introvert character. He seems to be a bit phlegmatic but in fact he needs to feel pressure to show the best performances. Vitezslav Vesely, the third man in the Czech all-time tables (88.11) behind his teammate Petr Frydrych (88.23) and his coach and World record holder Jan Zelezny (98.48) is one of the biggest hopes of the Czech team for Olympic gold in London 2012.
A park with an athletics stadium in the city of Hodonín, South Moravia, was the place where Vitezslav’s father took his son to watch an athletics competition. He saw the javelin thrower Zdenek Adamec who was described by his father as “a gentleman of Javelin Throw”. Vita, as most of the people call Vesely, liked athletics so much, that he started to attend the sport’s basic school at the age of 10. He used to be the best in the cricket ball throw, but the coaches preferred the kids to run.
He was already a 14-year-old youngster when he tried the Javelin for the first time. “It was just by coincidence. We were at the training camp in Certovy kameny with coach Lípa and he allowed me to throw downhill from the slope. There was not enough space to throw it a different way,” Vesely described his first Javelin experience.
As a 15-year-old pupil he became the national champion in his category, winning in his first real competition throwing 36 metres in Pilsen. “I did not even have the real spikes for Javelin. I only threw in the normal spikes for running but without the nails,” he remembers.
Despite the victory, he still mainly competed in races and he also gained the national youth title in the cross country. But at the age of 16 he decided to do something more in this sport. He left the city of Hodonín because there was no real coach for Javelin Throw and he moved to Zlín to study at the Business high school. The main reason for this change was a coach, Jaroslav Halva, who used to train also famous Czech javelin thrower Jan Zelezny, while the latter was living in Banská Bystrica. Unconsciously, he started the way to Jan Zelezny with this step.
After throwing 73.22 in June 2002, the 19-year-old athlete attended his first international competition at the World Junior Championships in Kingston, ending his journey in qualification with 71.59.
But at the age of 21 he literally ended his athletic career. Nobody would have predicted him to become the European champion 8 years later. A humble and nice guy, as they usually describe Vesely, he almost missed his athletic future when he felt disgusted and tired of all the health problems and injuries he had. Problems with shoulder, elbow, and ankle made his favourite event a torture in the junior age group. Nothing seemed to help. Vesely started to look for a job and worked as an officer in the music school. His career was saved when he received the positive reply letter from the Faculty of Physical Education and Sport in Prague. Despite the painful elbow, he wanted to try training again and he moved to the Czech capital.
In 2006, he competed in only a handful of javelin competitions for his club Sparta Praha. Pain in the elbow prevented him from participating in more competitions, but he still managed to improve his personal best closer to 76 metres.
Then, his life changed almost from one day to another. Triple Olympic champion Jan Zelezny was ending his active professional career and was looking for some talents to start as a coach. In this moment, former shot putter Remigius Machura called Zelezny and said: “There is one strange guy training in my group in Sparta but there is something about him.” Zelezny liked Vesely and they agreed to cooperate.
The “new-born” athlete missed the Osaka World Championships due to problems with his left foot, but he managed to improve at the end of the 2007 season achieving 79.45, a new PB.
The way to the 80 metre barrier was not easy but was successfully completed in 2008. Vesely fulfilled the B-Olympic standard at the Ostrava Golden Spike meeting throwing 78 metres, then improving in Kladno to 79.70. The qualification round in Beijing did not look good for him, as he had one fault and the second attempt of 78.93 seemed to be not long enough for a spot in the final. But in the third and last attempt he pushed it far and broke his personal best with 81.20 metres to become an Olympic finalist. Coach Zelezny commented his result as his birth as a javelin thrower because his PB starts with number 8 from that moment. In the final he threw only 76.76 to finish 12th.
80.35 was a solid achievement right at the beginning of the 2009 season, in May, to qualify for the World Championships in Berlin. However, injury prevented him from registering a notable performance in the German capital, where he finished 28th with 76.76.
The big breakthrough became in May 2010, when Vesely improved by 5 metres to 86.45 in Olomouc, and he started to think about battles with the biggest stars for the first time. “They are also just humans and have good and bad moments. It is not such an unrealistic idea to beat Thorkildsen and Pitkämäki one day.”
But this result was just a first stepping stone on the long way through a number of injuries and complications. The performances of Vesely that year were unstable, and changing from one competition to another. “When you are not healthy, your mind is also not relaxed and does not allow you to show technically valuable attempts, even if you are trained enough,” explained the athlete, who however managed to go five times over 80 metres in 2010. “You learn to become the best javelin thrower over many years.” He left for the European Championships, in Barcelona, with high expectations, but 77.83 was enough only for ninth place. “I think I was over-motivated. After the first attempt I started to be afraid to take risks.”
In 2011, Vesely’s results were more stable, with nine results over 80m, and this time he peaked when it mattered most. Fourth place at the World Championships, in Daegu, with 84.11 was one of the greatest results of the Czech team in Korea. Vesely regretted the missed bronze medal a bit, but stayed focused, with a strong end of the year, and prepared to his transition as a soldier. In the winter 2011, Vesely entered the Czech army and finally felt healthy. He was becoming more and more self-confident in training. "Despite the fact he still thinks about too many things, like a philosopher, he finally realised basic things he has to take care of: rhythm and to hold up his hand,” Zelezny added.
The year 2012 started with big achievements and many people were wondering if the Czech Olympic hope would be still in shape for the London Olympic Games. Front positions and victories at the Diamond League meetings in Shanghai and Olso, the latter with a personal best of 88.11, confirmed Vita’s shape and stabilised technique. The European Championships, in Helsinki, were like a little Olympic rehearsal. Beating the biggest stars on the list a few weeks before London, could have shown the future Olympic winner.
Everybody was very surprised that Vesely had big troubles with the qualification in the Finnish capital. Members of the Czech team were on needles whether their medal hope would even qualify to the final throwing 79.09. In the end, the mark qualified him, with the 10th place.
After prolongation of the run up, in the final he won with 83.72.. “It was very emotional to listen to the Czech anthem but I do not have any special place for the medal. I would even sell it, if it is for a good thing,” said Vesely as he went to celebrate the title, which was never achieved by his coach, at the Czech pub Vltava in Helsinki.
But the Olympic medal would mean something special to the student of the Faculty of Physical Education and Sport in Prague, who has even interrupted his studies to prepare properly for the 11 August final in London. “I did not even check the date yet,” said the phlegmatic Vesely seriously in Helsinki. Just one year before, after the long series of fourth places at Diamond League meetings and the World Championships in Daegu, he had joked that he would change his diet into fish and chips to perform well on British soil.
Six of his 10 best performances (as at 28 July 2012) come from this year, one is from 2010 and three from 2011 – it means that Vesely is growing and step by step trying to follow his icon and idol, his own coach Jan Zelezny.
“His poker-face is a big advantage for him. The opponents never know what he thinks and so they start to be afraid of him,” thinks Jan Zelezny about his athlete. Sport historians say that Vesely is a copy of Zelezny in his early years. He also was not very talkative and they both had the same motto: “We are not fanatics about healthy diets. To feel comfortable is the most important thing to show good result.” Both have similar hobbies like fishing or watching movies.
Javelin Throw: 88.11 (2012)
2001: 66.18; 2002: 73.22; 2003: 66.95 ; 2004: 72.32; 2006: 75.98; 2007: 79.45; 2008: 81.20; 2009: 80.35; 2010: 86.45; 2011: 84.11; 2012: 88.11 (PB)
2002 9th World Junior Championships (Kingston) 71.59
2008 3rd European Champion Clubs Cup (Vila Real 70.66
2008 3rd European Cup – First League, Group A (Lairia) 73.00
2008 12th Olympic Games (Beijing) 76.76 (81.20 in q)
2009 q World Championships (Berlin) 75.76
2010 2nd European Team Championships (Budapest) 76.25
2010 9th European Championships (Barcelona) 77.83
2011 4th World Championships (Daegu) 84.11
2012 1st European Championships (Helsinki) 83.72
Prepared by Zuzana Trojakova for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2012