Spotakova rewards MOWA with paraphernalia

Edwin  - CEO January 15, 2024
Updated 2024/01/15 at 8:51 PM
11 Min Read
Spotakova Barbora
Spotakova Barbora

World record-holder gifts final World Championships uniform to Museum


Barbora Spotakova competes at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha (© Getty Images)

As the 19 surviving entrants moved from the field to the track in Santiago’s Estadio Nacional for the final event of the heptathlon at the 2000 World U20 Championships, Barbora Spotakova occupied one of the podium positions, Simon Turnbull reports for World Athletics Heritage.


A mighty javelin throw of 54.15m had propelled the teenage Czech multi-eventer into the third spot – behind one Carolina Kluft of Sweden and Russia’s Lidiya Bashlykova-Nokrhina.


With just seven points to spare, young ‘Bara’ – as she was known to her teammates, family, and friends – could not afford to let Sanna Saarman get ahead of her in the 800m if she was to collect the bronze medal. Sadly, it was not to be.


As the 17-year-old Kluft comfortably secured the gold (6056 points) and Bashlykova-Nokrhina the silver (5898), the 19-year-old Spotakova edged out of third place.


She finished fifth in the third and final 800m heat in 2:24.30 – one place and 2.10sec behind Saarman. The Finn took bronze with 5707 points. Spotakova finished fourth with 5689.


Like Kluft, ‘Bara’ was to become one of the all-time greats of track and field – but not as a multi-eventer. Her six appearances at the senior World Athletics Championships were all as a javelin thrower. From the last of those, in Doha in 2019 – in which she finished ninth – she has kindly chosen to donate her singlet, name bib, and throwing boots to the Museum of World Athletics (MOWA).


The MOWA is delighted to receive them because the one-time track and field all-rounder, the nearly-girl of the heptathlon at those 2000 World U20 Championships, proceeded to establish herself as the undisputed queen of the weapon, capturing three world titles and two Olympic gold medals, and setting a world record mark of 72.28m that has remained intact for 15 years now.


Barbora Spotakova's vest from the 2019 World ChampionshipsBarbora Spotakova’s vest from the 2019 World Championships (© MOWA)


“Every fairytale comes to an end.”


The first of Spotakova’s five global championship successes came in Osaka in 2007. At those same World Athletics Championships, Kluft bade farewell to her heptathlon career at 24, completing a hat-trick of world titles to add to the Olympic gold she won in Athens in 2004.


Remarkably, Spotakova was still a major championship medal winner as a 41-year-old mother of two young boys. She announced her retirement from international competition after claiming a brilliant bronze at the 2022 European Athletics Championships in Munich.


“Every fairytale comes to an end, and mine had a wonderful happy ending in the form of a bronze medal at the European Championships in Munich, symbolically closing the circle,” Spotakova announced at a press conference in Prague in September last year.


Even though she has stepped off the international circuit to concentrate on the upbringing of her two boys – Janek, now 10, and Darek, five – the standard bearer of the women’s javelin has not quite been able to lay down her spear for good.


In 2023, at 42, she finished second in the Czech Championships, sixth in the Golden Spike meet in Ostrava, and threw a season’s best of 60.32m, good enough for 44th on the world list and 19th on the European list.


It all might have been very different, of course, had Spotakova chosen to stay in the multi-events game – instead of gaining the singular focus that Kluft craved in her later career as an injury-plagued long jump specialist, who also fleetingly dabbled in the triple jump.


Barbora Spotakova in Osaka in 2007Barbora Spotakova in Osaka in 2007 (© Getty Images)

Switch to the weapon


Spotakova’s father, Frantisek, was a decathlete, and her mother, Ludmila, was also an athlete and coach.


At 14, Barbora moved from the family home in Jablonec nad Nisou in the north of Czechia to study at the Pripotocni Gymnasium, a specialist sports school in Prague. In her teenage years in the Czech capital, she spent some of her spare time earning money as a cleaner and gained a fondness for drinking beer and listening to punk bands in pubs.


Still, Spotakova kept at her studies and emerged as a talented track and field all-rounder under the guidance of coach Rudolf Cerny, finishing runner-up in the Czech U20 indoor pentathlon in 1999.


Outdoors, the following year, she finished ninth in the heptathlon in the Multistars meet at Desenzano, notched a victory at the Combined Events International in Hexham, and finished third at the Czech Championships in Prague, improving her PB to 5873 points – a score that would have comfortably secured bronze at the World U20 Championships in Chile.


In the 2001 season, she was a watershed for Spotakova. She again placed third at the Czech Championships and seventh in the European Athletics Multi-Events competition at Maribor but failed to kick on, registering an annual best of 5414.


On a subsequent one-year stay at the University of Minnesota, from 2001-02, Spotakova began to focus on the weapon. However, she took the 2002 Big Ten heptathlon title at Madison, Wisconsin, with a score of 5400.


After that, she only contested two more heptathlons, notching a creditable fourth place twice at the end of season Decastars meet in Talence in 2004 and 2012, on the latter occasion with a lifetime best haul of 5880 points.


After taking javelin silver with 56.76m at the 2002 Czech Championships in Ostrava, Spotakova opened the circle of her major championship career in the arena where she was to close it 20 years later – narrowly missing the cut for the final at that year’s European Championships in Munich’s Olympiastadion.


Surprisingly, given the success she enjoyed at the world level, Spotakova only managed two European Championships titles – in Zurich in 2014 and Amsterdam two years later – plus a silver in Gothenburg in 2006 and bronzes in Barcelona in 2010 and Munich last year.


Barbora Spotakova on her way to winning European javelin gold in ZurichBarbora Spotakova on her way to winning European javelin gold in Zurich (© Getty Images)

That was, however, two continental crowns more than her celebrated compatriot Jan Zelezny, who succeeded Cerny as her coach, managed to gain during a trailblazing career as a three-time world and Olympic javelin champion and world record-breaker.


Spotakova claimed five global championship golds, the first at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka. She broke her Czech record twice in the final, throwing 66.40m and 67.07m to beat German favorite Christina Obergfoll.


Her golden streak continued at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, snatching victory and the European record with 71.42m in the final round. In doing so, the Czech moved to second place on the world all-time list, behind the 71.54m Osleidys Menendez. Still, in her final competition of the year, at the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, she eclipsed the Cuban’s world record with a monster throw of 72.28m.


Coach Zelezny


Spotakova took silver behind Germany’s Steffi Nerius at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. 2011, with Zelezny now guiding her, she regained the world title in Daegu, throwing 71.58m, the second-best mark of her career.


Her two other global titles came in London, five years apart: at the 2012 Olympics and 2017 World Championships. She also earned bronze at the 2016 Olympics, becoming the first woman to win three Olympic medals in the javelin.


Barbora Spotakova in the javelin at the London 2012 Olympic GamesBarbora Spotakova in the javelin at the London 2012 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)


Despite taking breaks in 2013 and 2018 to give birth to her sons, Spotakova managed to maintain her major championship medal-winning form right through to the end of her marathon career.


In 2021, she made her fifth Olympic appearance, narrowly failing to qualify for the final in Tokyo. Still, in Munich a year later, she mustered a 60.68m throw to sign off in style at the 2022 European Championships – earning bronze at the age of 41, behind teenagers Elina Tzengko of Greece and Adriana Vilagos of Serbia.


“I hope I’ve been able to show that you can last long in the javelin,” said the one-time track and field all-rounder. “I hope I have shown that my technique looks easy – like you don’t have to be a weightlifter or a powerful person.”


That Spotakova happens to be an inspiration was clear when Haruka Kitaguchi won the 2023 world title in Budapest.


Asked which javelin thrower she admired the most, whose performances she studied the most, the Japanese thrower, who trains in Czechia, replied: “Barbora Spotakova.


“I love Barbora Spotakova. I love that I am training in the Czech Republic, her country.”


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