Barbora Spotakova in action in Kladno (© Pavel Lebeda/organisers)
Tossing a javelin competitively for the first time since the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 and aligned with a new coach, it somehow appeared to be business as usual for Barbora Spotakova.
The two-time Czech Olympic javelin champion returned to competition at the ‘Back on the Track’ meeting this past week in Kladno, just outside of Prague. Špotáková won the javelin with a second round throw of 63.69m, outdistancing runner-up Nikola Ogrodnikova by 77cm.
“I changed my coach in January so it was a big thing for me – I wanted to test my shape and show everybody that I made a good choice, and I made a good choice,” Spotakova said, after her victory.
Spotakova’s new coach is Jan Tylce, a Czech athlete who retired in 2018 and has experience throwing and coaching the javelin, shot put and discus. The 38-year-old Czech javelin star parted ways with her longtime coach Rudolf Cerny, who helped guide her to Olympic gold medals in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, bronze at Rio 2016, in addition to her 72.28m world record throw in September 2008.
“Even though we haven’t trained as usual, I was at home and I have good conditions at home for everything,” Spotakova said, alluding to working out at her in home in Jablonec nad Nisou as sports facilities were shut down in March, April and May due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have mental strength and a lot of things don’t affect me,” she said. “I was calm, I kept training and I think I showed it here.
“I am in good shape and I kind of expected that I would throw more than in Doha,” said Spotakova, a three-time world champion.
Her 59.87m mark in Doha resulted in a disappointing ninth-place finish.
The 1 June competition at Sletiste Stadium in Kladno – which was the center-piece of a synchronised launch of 173 meets across the Czech Republic as coronavirus restrictions have eased – was contested without spectators in the stands. However, fans were permitted to line the perimeters of the track, separated by sufficient distance from athletes, officials and media.
“I hope that the fans are happy that we are back on the track,” said Spotakova. “I like this project because it is in 170 stadiums in the Czech Republic – I didn’t even know there are so many of them.
“We are showing the world that it is possible and that everything is getting better now.”
Parts of three meets were broadcast live on Czech Television and with a deal to provide rights to European Broadcasting Union (EBU) members and remove geo-blocking restrictions, the competition was available for viewing around the world and also shown by the Olympic Channel.
Now cooperating with Tylce, Spotakova is striving to compete at her fifth Olympic Games in Tokyo, now scheduled for 2021. A fourth Olympic javelin medal would equal her countryman Jan Zelezny, for the most ever in Olympic history.
“The age is here, but I’m optimistic now,” she said. “At first I was disappointed [about the Tokyo 2020 Olympics], but otherwise I told myself that I have a new coach now and it’s our first season together. Next season will be better.”
But for Spotakova, the significance of the ‘Back on the Track’ meeting was far greater than her return to form.
“Here everything changes every day, so I hope around the world it will be the same,” she said, as athletes return to sports facilities across her country.
“We will be back on the track internationally very soon.”
Brian Pinelli for World Athletics