Interview Jan Vaněk – Czech Paralympic Representative in Club Throw


Series FGSD Thanks to You!

Hand glued to the club

Despite rich collection of medals, Jan Vaněk has only one Paralympic medal so far. Experienced Czech national team member won it eight years ago in Beijing in a discipline called club throw. He finished 8th this year, as his best throw was 23,94 m long. “To be fair I have to admit that at the moment I cannot beat the top. The competition was also affected by the referee’s strict judgements concerning the competitors sitting style. Therefore two of my throws were not accepted. I had to tie my legs very tightly together and that influenced my performance,” Jan Vaněk complained after the competition.

He is very modest taking into account what he has achieved. At the beginning he wanted to make sure we do not get dirty from the wax he uses on his club handle during the interview. “It is not very clean sport as you cannot wash the glue off for a week,” he said grinning.

Did you have time to explore Rio and its surroundings?

Public transport in Rio is not prepared well for disabled people, therefore we had to rely only on Paralympic transportation to particular sport venues or on individual means. Nonetheless I didn’t miss the most famous places. I’ve been to Copacabana, the beautiful large beach, which was so unsuitable for me. And also to the famous statue of Christ at the hill. I appreciated this trip more, because even on the wheelchair we could reach the top of the statue as well as the others. The way up was a great experience and the view was gorgeous.

Your kickoff to Paralympic games was in Beijing 8 years ago and you won bronze medal immediately. Do you consider this as your biggest sport-success so far?

There is no doubt it was a big success. I’ve been to every world championship since that time. In London 2014 I was third, one year later I even won the European championship in Swansea, England. But the medal from Beijing is definitely the most valuable in my collection.

How did you celebrate the bronze medal from Beijing after you came home?

I would think about it a bit differently now. Not until several years later I realized how extraordinary the achievement was and that I should appreciate it more. It was my first success at the first competition and now I regret I didn’t appreciate it more back then. I would celebrate more this year.

And how did your relatives and friends feel about it?

There was a nice surprise waiting for me at home. A big banner Welcome winner!” with a picture of a club was hanging above our entrance. I found out some time later that it took my family the whole weekend to make it.

You took part also at the Paralympic games in London and Rio. To what extent were they different compared to Beijing?

I was not so concerned in London, I was more experienced and it was closer. But the atmosphere was better in Beijing. The stadium was full, I was amazed. But on the other hand I must admit, that it was somehow more spontaneous in London, fans supported everyone, whereas in Beijing it was more artificial and locals were more focused on their Chinese athletes.

IMG_4668How often do you train?

I don’t have to train at all, but without training I would not have achieved what I have. I try to practice at least once a week and keep myself in shape. I sometimes ride my wheelchair on my own and don’t drive by car everywhere. And avoiding injury and keeping my hands fit are the most important things.

But you don’t train on your own, do you?

I should give major credit for my successes to Eva Hrdinová, my coach who I have been cooperating with for more than 10 years. The group of athletes, who are trained by Eva, brought 5 medals from Beijing. Above all, there are 3 members of Hvězda Pardubice, who are in top 10 club throwers in the world – which is incredible success.

What has been your most exhilarating experience from all the Paralympics?

It is the moment when you come to the stadium for the first time and there are 80 000 people, everyone is cheering and waving. The atmosphere just engulfs you completely. It seems as if everyone was supporting only you. I felt anxious at first, but after a while I began to like it and I enjoyed it a lot.

FGSD supports disabled sportsmen and women of Hvězda Pardubice every year. How important is this form of sponsorship to you and what is the money used for?

I know about the cooperation with FGSD and we are very grateful for that. We use most of the money to cover our transportation expenses, coach salary, accompaniment, and for training camps. For us it is essential that FGSD is the long-term partner and we can count on your support also in the next season. Therefore big thanks goes to FGSD and all your employees!

Tomáš Tesař, Integrated Communications Manager, FGSD