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Already the World Record holder, Zelezný was favourite to win gold in Seoul. He proved as much when he set a new Olympic Record in qualifying. He led throughout the final of the event, but lost the gold medal to Tapio Korjus of Finland on the last throw of the competition.
In Barcelona Zelezný won gold with his first throw of the final, breaking his own Olympic record by 3.76 metres. In Atlanta four years later golden-armed Zelezný did it again, this time beating Steve Backley of Great Britain with a throw of 88.16 metres. It was Zelezný gold, Backley silver at the Sydney Games as well in 2000. Zelezný’s winning throw this time was 90.17 metres.
Zelezný is remembered for one particular sporting moment as much as for his Olympic dominance: his incredible 1996 World Record Javelin throw of 98.48 metres. During his javelin career no other athlete cam within five metres of it. Zelezný managed a total of 52 official throws over 90m by 2005 – a greater number than all other javelin throwers combined.
Zelezný’s last Olympic Games was at the 2004 Athens Games where he finished 9th. The quiet and modest man from Mlada Boleslav, north east of Prague in the Czech Republic, had achieved more than any other athlete in the history of his discipline.
Jan Zelezný was elected a member of the International Olympic Committee in December 1999.