Julian Weber may have turned out to be a professional javelin throw athlete at senior level, but he is a man of many sports. Currently* ranking third in World Athletics’ global rankings for Men’s Javelin Throw, Julian has shown an aptitude for the sporting world for as long as he can remember.
Last week, I had the honour of speaking to the World No. 3 himself in order to get to know him a little bit more.
“I grew up having an affinity for both track and field events and handball”, starts Julian as I ask him about the point in his life when he started getting serious about athletics. “I suppose my interest in javelin throw grew more and more serious once I started producing results at the junior levels and my coach realised I had the potential to go to the top.”
“[The] Javelin throw was not the only discipline I liked,” Julian adds. “I took part in other track and field events as well, like the pole vault and the Diskuswurf [discus throw], but I never reached the same levels in them as I did with javelin, so I knew quite early on that I would go pro in javelin throw.”
When it comes to handball, Julian is not only an enthusiast, he is also quite a decent player himself. Given his familial connections, it’s not hard to understand why he couldn’t stay away from the sport.
When he was 12 years old, Julian dropped athletics for handball. Was it family that affected his decision, or his own affinity towards the sport?
“It was a bit of both, actually,” Julian explains. “Both my brother and sister had taken to handball—and have gone on to become professional handball players—and, as mentioned before, I liked handball as well. I didn’t completely drop track and field, but I did get more serious about handball.”
“I still very much follow handball today,” he continues, talking passionately about his love for handball. “While I am an athletics player now, I watch and enjoy as much handball as I can. In fact, I’m currently living in Berlin and hope to visit and see the local handball team Füchse Berlin in action someday.”
However, having decided to prefer handball over athletics, Julian returned to the latter in 2012 after sustaining—in his case—career-defining injuries. Out of curiosity, I ask him how different he reckons his career would have turned out had he not sustained them. He replies, “I think if I hadn’t sustained the injuries when I did I would have gone on to play both handball and javelin throw for a few more years, but they certainly made me choose early.”
“I do not regret my decision at all, though,” he adds, “and maybe in another life I could have been a professional handball player; you never know.”
I then ask Julian about his indulgences outside his occupation and his foremost passion. “There are a few other sports I enjoy,” he says. “There is chess, basketball, table tennis.”
“Outside of sports, I like going out and interacting with people. and currently, I’m also studying economics. So, yeah, you could count them as my hobbies,” Julian smiles as he concludes talking about his life outside the track.
Of course, the javelin throw found overnight fame in India when Neeraj Chopra secured the gold medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics in men’s javelin throw. In that exact same event, Julian missed out on a medal by a mere 14 centimetres; he finished fourth with a best-of-six distance of 85.30 metres, while bronze-medal-winning Vítězslav Veselý managed to achieve a distance of 85.44 metres.
“All I could say,” Julian starts as he speaks of Neeraj’s performance in Tokyo, “is that on that day, he clearly outshone his opponents and was the one who utilised his potential to maximum effect. As a fellow professional of the discipline, it was nice to see him perform at that level and take home the gold for his country.”
If you’re aware of the Indian sponsorships scene, you would know that almost every big-name brand has been after Chopra to leverage his new-found celebrity to build its own brand value. “I do have sponsorship deals, yes, but none of them are of the scale Neeraj is attracting right now,” Julian replies with utmost modesty when asked about his own portfolio of brand endorsements.
As we conclude our conversation, I ask Julian for one last word: a message of encouragement for the kids out there looking to take up athletics. He replies, “All I could say is that hard work will always be key, and once you have a clear dream and the will to put in the work, you can go a long way to make that dream a reality.
“For Indian kids looking to get into athletics, you guys now have a fantastic icon in Neeraj to look up to. His story is another example of how hard work pays off!”
Next up for the 27-year-old is the first leg of the 2022 Diamond League, which kicks off at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar on May 13.
*As of February 15, 2022