TOKYO (WFXR) — Qualifying begins Tuesday morning (Monday night in the United States) in the women’s javelin throw at Olympic Stadium. One athlete hoping to make the final is Irena Gillarova. She won two NCAA titles for Virginia Tech and now she’s competing in her first Olympics for the Czech Republic.
Gillarova sat down with “Today in Tokyo” host David DeGuzman to discuss her journey to Japan, some of the struggles when it comes to traveling with javelins for competition, and what representing Virginia Tech means to her.
David DeGuzman: How do you describe the journey you’ve taken to become an Olympian, the work you’ve put in and how tough it was to even qualify?
Irena Gillarova: It’s hard. I mean on one hand, you live the dream. You’re a professional athlete. Especially studying in the US, it was amazing. When I think back about it, it was a great experience. I also feel like after I finish my studies, it would’ve been great to start my professional career in international politics. I love my job, I love the journey. I’m so happy the Olympic Games has happened because there’s always been thoughts about if I should start focusing on something else.
I’m so happy I didn’t and that I gave my all to track and field. The journey actually was worth it. It was hard but I’m beyond happy for this thing happening right now.
DD: What’s it been like for the last few years? The competitions you’ve been in and how you’ve been working hard training just to be able to get in this position to now call yourself an Olympian?
IG: The competitions I’ve been in — it was world championships and European championships. And that’s the reason why we do it. For the thrill and the adrenaline of the competitions that we do. That’s the best part. It’s all great. It’s hard too because javelin sometimes give you some injuries. It’s about overcoming the pain and injuries and not giving up. But it’s worth it. 100 percent.
DD: It’s never the easiest thing to do when you’re traveling around the world in competition and having to carry your javelins with you. Can you take us through what it’s like to check it all in and the looks that you get sometimes at the airport?
IG: Once, actually, I think it was Miami airport when we were traveling with Virginia Tech team. I was on the escalators running upstairs. I was just holding my javelins and somehow they got stuck in the ceiling and they were just like hanging down from the ceiling. I kept going on the stairs and I just didn’t know what to do. My javelins were stuck in the ceiling. We had to call security and ask them for help.
It’s fun. I always feel cool carrying my javelins with me. It feels like, I don’t know, that the thing. I like it.
DD: You’re representing the Czech Republic and also in a way, you get to represent Virginia Tech and Hokie Nation as well. What does all of that mean to you as you’re about to compete on the world stage?
IG: Even though I’m from Czech and I’m representing Czech always, I feel, and you feel it too, part of the Hokie Nation so you represent that as well. It’s very important and very nice actually. I’m very proud to be a Hokie and it’s not just empty words so.
Watch the extended interview with Irena Gillarova below.
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