This feature, by Stuart Weir, is on the enduring javelin star Barbora Špotáková, who competed for 23 years. Barbora has competed in World Champs, Olympics, Diamond League, and Continental Tour meetings since 1999.
When I saw Barbora Špotáková throw a javelin at the 2022 Diamond League final. I didn’t think anything of it. After all, she has been throwing a javelin for 23 years! I now know it was special because it was her last. She announced her retirement at the age of 41.
She commented: “I would like to thank everyone who stood by me the whole time. First, of course, are my parents and my partner Lukáš. Many thanks also go to coaches Rudo Černý, Jan Železný, and Jan Tylče. The next important person is Libor Varhaník, who took excellent care of me the whole time, and Jaroslav Priščák, who brought me to Dukla Prague. Then there are a number of doctors and physiotherapists who have performed miracles many times. There are countless people to whom I owe such a long career.”
“I want to be a mom now,” she added. “The boys are nine and four, and I feel they need me more than ever before. I found that it makes me happier when they play sports than when I do. In the past year, I had to watch myself a lot to stay as healthy as possible, and I missed the joy of athletics. I enjoy my boys’ sports all the more.”
She finished her career with 2 Olympic gold medals (2008 and 2012) and a bronze. She was the world champion three times (2007, 2011, and 2017) and finished second in 2009. She won 4 Diamond League finals and 22 Diamond League events.
I remember talking to her in 2019 and recalling her win at the London 2017 World Championships. She told me she had “nice memories because I won! I liked the stadium and great that I won 10 years after my first world title again. So, beautiful”.
I asked her to put into words what it meant to be a world champion. She said simply: “That is why you do athletics – because you want to be world champion. It happened to me twice – three* times, actually. It’s a beautiful feeling; I know about it, so I can tell people. It’s nice to have had it once, but I’ve had it twice, and it’s a beautiful feeling, definitely. Being a world champion gives you confidence, but you can never feel unbeatable. It’s not good to feel unbeatable. You can have self-confidence but should not take it for granted”.
In 2019 in Doha, she reached the final and came ninth, but that was OK; she told me that because she was coming back after “a mother’s break, 2019 was definitely a different season. It was like a new start, to start after giving birth. Every competition felt like a personal best – if trying to improve a few centimeters.
She retired as the world record holder.
*For her 2011 world title, she was awarded the gold medal only in 2018 after Mariya Abakumova’s disqualification for doping.