Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tears of Joy for a Czech Champion on a Special Day

....Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic after her winning throw on Thursday. (EPA/Kay Nietfeld)

BEIJING — Barbora Spotakova’s evening ended in tears.She cried after her last throw in the women’s javelin final, she cried as the competitors did a victory lap, she cried as she put on her track suit and she cried as she sang the Czech national anthem on the top step of the podium.
After her opening throw Thursday night, Spotakova had strutted and stretched her arm above her, index finger pointing upward. The throw, 69.32 meters (227 feet 1 inch), was long but 10 centimeters (4 inches) shorter than the first-round throw of the Russian, Maria Abakumova.
As mist turned to drizzle and then to rain that puddled the apron around the track, the throws fell shorter. Sometimes the competitors fell as Britain’s Goldie Sayers did, slipping on a stripe of rain-slicked paint. Abakumova stretched her lead with a throw of 70.78 meters (232 feet 2 inches) in the fourth round, a European record.
Lying in second place, Spotakova had the penultimate throw in the last round.
‘‘Aug. 21 is a very special day for the Czech Republic — it’s the 40th anniversary of the Soviet invasion in 1968,’’ she said afterward. ‘‘I of course had a Russian competitor against me. She was winning with such a long throw,” she added, and said she wondered if she’d be able to turn the date to her advantage.
Javelin throwers say they know when a throw is right, but this seems to have been an out-of-body experience.
As Spotakova released the javelin an expression that mixed anticipation and disbelief rushed across her face. As it hit the ground, Spotakova also fell to earth. The throw was 71.42 meters (234 feet 4 inches), 11 centimeters below the world record, but enough for victory.
‘‘I don’t know how I did it,’’ Spotakova said. ‘‘I had to do a miracle.’’
‘‘I can’t remember before the throw or after the throw. Nothing.’’
Abakumova could not summon up a miracle of her own with the last throw and finished second. Christina Obergfoll of Germany was third with a throw of 66.13 meters.
Osleidys Menendez, the Cuban who holds the world record and held the Olympic title was sixth. In the men’s triple jump the lead skipped back and forth between the top two finishers. Phillips Edowu, a Briton, took the lead in the first round. Nelson Evora of Portugal overtook him in the second round. Edowu took it back in the third round with a leap of 17.62 meters but in the first round Evora went 17.67, to win.
The top four men were tightly bunched. Leevan Sands of Bahamas was third with a jump of 17.59. Arnie David Girat of Cuba was fourth, another two centimeters back.