History is littered with athletes who have performed well in more than one sport, but few have done so at the same time. That’s why SPIKES doffs its cap to javelin world champion and Bundesliga second division volleyball regular Katharina Molitor.

What came first?

Throwing, jumping and sprinting at her local athletics club from the age of six, Katharina Molitor embraced our great sport before specialising in the javelin aged 13. The German was a keen all-round sportswoman, and also enjoyed success at swimming, tennis and basketball. It was by playing the latter sport that she was introduced to volleyball.

“I played basketball with my brother at the time. I did a lot with my brother and it was he who said it would be better if I did my own thing,” explains Molitor. “I had played volleyball at the beach before. I had enjoyed it, so that is when I decided to play volleyball in 1998 [aged 14].”

Spear destiny

She continued to compete in both sports concurrently, and in 2004 looked to break into volleyball’s Bundesliga first division. However, the switch did not work, and when leading javelin coach Helge Zollkau – one-time tutor to 2009 world champion Steffi Nerius – offered her the chance to join his Leverkusen-based group, athletics became the focus of her sporting ambitions.

Katharina Molitor during the 2015 Beijing World Championships ()

Molitor took javelin gold with a world-leading 67.69m final round throw

Half volley

Molitor’s first success with the jav came in 2005 when she won European Under-23 silver. A string of top eight finishes at Olympics, world and Euro champs followed, but until this year the podium had eluded her.

In Beijing she enjoyed her finest hour, breaking Chinese hearts to secure gold with a PB of 67.69m ahead of home fave Lu Huihui. Yet she has never given up volleyball and still plays the game “two or three times a week”.

“Every day I do my athletics training, but if I have time then I’ll play volleyball,” she explains. “If I don’t feel good and I feel too tired, I don’t play volleyball.”  

So what does Coach Zollkau think of her physically demanding extra-curricular pursuit?

“I don’t think he likes it, but I’ve done it for so long he is okay with it now. I’ve only injured myself once. That happened in the last [2013-14] volleyball season [which runs from September to April] when I injured the fingers on my left hand [Molitor throws javelin with her right], so everything is good.”

Can she dig it?

Molitor spent one-and-a-half seasons playing for Bayer Leverkusen in the high quality Bundesliga first division. She still plays for them today, and has helped them win several national second division titles.

Yet despite her impressive level of success on the volleyball court, she insists it is just for fun.

“For me, it is not so important to finish top,” she explains. “Of course I want to give my best and play well, but if I didn’t play in the first league again, it doesn’t matter to me.”

Katharina Molitor hurdles the barrier after winning the world title ()

In Rio 2016, Molitor might also line up in the hurdles (what is it with German throwers and hurdling?)

Pursuit of happiness

On a physical level, playing volleyball has added little to her ability throw the javelin. However, it pays a different type of dividend.

“It makes me happy and gives me something to think about outside of athletics,” she says.

On the flip side, she believes her javelin training has been a huge benefit on the volleyball court.

“I maybe don’t have the best technique, but I’m a fast player and my basic athleticism learned from javelin allows me to often make it to the ball.”

Fun times

Molitor is unsure whether she would recommend other athletes play another sport alongside their track and field training demands. But for her the recipe works, as evidenced by her securing a maiden world title at the age of 31.

“I don’t know, but if they have fun [with other sports] they should try it,” she says. “I enjoy the fun factor and for me it is the right decision. I enjoy playing in a team. They were all really happy with me and congratulated me after my gold medal in Beijing and we had a party.”