Věra Čáslavská

* 1942  †︎ 2016

  • "Before my departure to the Olympics in Mexico I went to Wenceslas Square to the statue of St. Wenceslas to ask him for strength. Then I realized there was an old lady standing next to me and staring at me. I thought: Oh my God, she will surely ask me whether I get bruises and calluses from the bars! Usually, people asked me just that and so I used to answer the question whether I was Věruška Čáslavská in a way that I claimed I was her sister. But when this old lady with her kind blue eyes asked me the same, I just couldn't lie to her. And then she told me: 'Dear girl, you give those Russians a proper beating there and I will pray for you so that you don't fall from that balance beam.'"

  • "I have to say that this body of mine served me well my whole life. I say it with gratitude, not to speak to soon: often, when I say something is amazing, it goes wrong instantly. A sportsperson can be perfectly prepared for their performance but their Achilles' tendon can fail or they can just get a regular flu - and their out of luck. My body always had its weak moments when it didn't matter. On the other hand, during the Olympics or other big contests, it was in order and gave a good peformance. I am grateful for it."

  • "After my daughter Radka was born I was listening to the radio in the kitchen and suddenly could hear chanting: 'Long live the Communist Party!' I thought at first it was some old record but then I realized it was the present. I leaned against the wall, slid down all the way towards the floor, sat there for about an hour in silence and thought: 'Dear Věra, that's it. Your daddy was right - dark times have arrived.'"

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    Praha, 04.11.2014

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I couldn‘t bear the Soviet anthem so I looked away

Věra Čáslavská
Věra Čáslavská
zdroj: Věra Čáslavská

Věra Čáslavská was born on 3 May 1942 in Prague. Since 1945 she attended a ballet school, later also started with figure-skating and as a fifteen-year-old became a top-level gymnast. Ever since 1958 she was a member of the national team, successfuly representing Czechoslovakia at international contests. She reached her best achievements at the 1964 Tokio and 1968 Mexico Olympics. At the same time she managed to study and work: graduating from a two-year economics school, from a three-year grammar school and in 1974 from the Faculty of Physical Education and Sport of Charles University in Prague. She made a living as a typist and later found employment at the central committee of the Czechoslovak Union of Physical Education and Sport. In 1968 she signed the Two Thousand Words manifesto and despite pressure never renounced her signature. Since late 1960s she was persecuted for political reasons and in 1971 lost her membership in the Union. For several years she coached young sportspeople in Prague and Mexico. Following the Velvet Revolution she became an adviser to president Václav Havel. In 1993 she suffered a personal tragedy. Since 1996 she retreated from public life and for the next decade lived a private life. She passed away on 30 August 2016 in Prague.