May 1942: The all-time great gymnast Věra Čáslavská is born


Věra Čáslavská’s achievements in gymnastics were nothing short of phenomenal: seven gold and four silver medals at the Olympic Games, four world titles and eleven European titles.

In 1968, Čáslavská responded to the crushing of her homeland’s Prague Spring movement by signing the 2,000-word petition against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia.

Věra Čáslavská at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico |  Photo: e-Sbírky, National Museum, CC BY 4.0

She expanded her legendary status with a silent protest against the occupation at the Mexico City Olympics in October 1968, when she bowed her head to take her eyes off a Soviet flag during a medal ceremony.

Čáslavská was then persecuted for her political position, banned from working as a coach and forced to become a cleaner.

After the fall of communism, she became a key official in the Czechoslovak/Czech Olympic Committee and also in the International Olympic Committee. In 1990 she also became a sports adviser to President Václav Havel.

Věra Čáslavská was born on May 3, 1942 in Prague. At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, she married Josef Odložil, a silver medalist in the 1500m, with whom they had a daughter, Radka (1969), and a son, Martin (1974). She died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer on August 30, 2016 in Prague at the age of 74.


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