Only three athletes met the automatic qualification standard to make the men’s javelin final at the Athletics World Championships: India’s Neeraj Chopra, Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem, and Jakub Vadlejch of the Czech Republic.
At 32, the Czech is the oldest of the three and one of the most senior competitors at the elite level in world javelin currently. However, he has been enjoying some of the biggest successes of his life in recent years—he crossed the magic 90-metre mark for the first time last year and is the current world leader in 2023 with a season’s best of 89.51m in June this year.
Many Indians are familiar with the Czech, who finished just behind Neeraj at the Tokyo Olympics. Vadlejch shares with Sportstar how he is getting better with age, the satisfaction of coming back from injury, winning the Olympic silver, competing in the shadow of triple Olympic champion and world record holder Jan Zelezny, and how he relaxes with coffee.
You also crossed 90m for the first time last year. What went right to get to that mark?
For the 90m mark, several factors come into play: shape, conditions, and mindset. One should be prepared for whatever conditions they face. That’s one reason why I try not to have any superstitions before a competition. A lot of athletes do, but I try not to have any. On the contrary, I would change the routine before every competition so that I was prepared for every scenario. About the 90m question, I know a lot of Indians are asking when Neeraj will get there. I believe he definitely has what it takes to break it, and he will do it soon.
You are from the same country as Jan Železný. Was he an inspiration for you or did his success put pressure on you as well?
Coach Železný has more-or-less formed me throughout my whole career. Thanks to him, I started, and he is the man behind everything I have achieved so far. Javelin throw is a sport in which the Czech Republic has a lot of history. I didn’t really have any other ambitions, and I don’t feel a lot of pressure (following Železný). But I’m glad that I can carry on the Czech javelin tradition; I see it as a privilege.
You started your international career in 2007, but it took you a long time to start winning the big medals. How did you stay motivated at that time?
I have always had a clear vision of what I want to do and what I want to achieve. I was looking to do well in 2017 and 2018 (a season’s best of 89.73m in 2017—the best since his international career started—and 89.02m in 2018), but after that, I suffered two serious injuries. In 2018, I had a fractured vertebra, and during the preparation for 2019, I tore a ligament in my knee. But I tried to turn the failures to my advantage and learn a lesson. Then you value your achievements even more.
How important was the Olympic silver medal for you? Many Indians know you because of it!
Of course, an Olympic medal is the pinnacle of an athlete’s life. For me, it was an enormous reward for the two challenging years I went through.
You are throwing more consistently and further as you have crossed your 30s—a time when many athletes are ending their careers? What do you think is the secret behind this?
I think it’s about mindset and priorities. The good thing is that with age, experience increases. Of course, you must take even better care of the body.
How would you rate the current standard of javelin throw compared to the previous years you have competed?
Speaking about the world’s elite, this year marks a slight decline in terms of performances, but perhaps next year there will be some farther throws awaiting us in the Olympics.
When we see javelin competitions, it seems like all the athletes get along well. Is it actually the case?
I guess we are simply a group of friends who are playing a common sport. I think that’s an ideal approach. You win some competitions, and you lose some. That’s how I see it. The one who is the best at the moment is going to take the win. That’s why we cheer for each other during a competition.
How do you relax outside of your sport?
I really like nature, so mountains are the ideal place for me to relax. Apart from that, I have a real love for coffee. People who know me well are aware of my passion for it. I have almost every possible tool for coffee preparation. It is a great way to relax.
You are also a family man now. How does that change the way you prioritise your sport?
My wife is a former professional athlete and a national record holder in her country (Slovakia), so she knows what such a life entails. I try to balance sports, life, and family as much as possible since I have a young child now. I’m also off social media. I’m actually one of the few international athletes who doesn’t use social media, and I think that helps. Everyone keeps asking me about it, but there’s no particular reason. When the hype started, I didn’t create one and didn’t bother with it. Maybe I’ll create a profile in the near future, but I’m not concerned about it.
You are already 32. Do you have any goals left right now?
I would like to compete until the LA Olympics (2028). Ideally, I would want to be at the top level even at that time!
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