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Vera Caslavska1998

Vera Caslavska - Czech Republic

Vera Caslavska, Class of 1998, International Gymnastics Hall of Fame v2

As the most successful female gymnast of the 1960s, Vera Caslavska of the Czech Republic has achieved worldwide admiration for not only her dominating performances, but her dignified defiance of political and social strife in her homeland.

Caslavska, a native of Prague, won three gold medals (including the all-around) at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games and the 1966 World Championships; and every event at the 1965 and 1967 European Championships.

Caslavska crowned her impressive career by winning four gold medals (including the all-around) at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. As dynamic and captivating as Caslavska's performances were in Mexico City, the symbolic stance she took against the Soviet Union's recent invasion of Czechoslovakia made an even stronger impression on worldwide television audiences. Soviet tanks had rolled into Prague to crush a popular uprising just months before the Games, forcing Caslavska to train in a secret rural location. In June 1968, Caslavska signed the "Manifesto of 2,000 Words," outlining democratic reforms being demanded by Czechoslovakian citizens.

In Mexico City, Caslavska staged her own quiet but effective protest. A late scoring change in the floor exercise final (which Caslavska had apparently won alone) created a tie between her and Soviet gymnast Larisa Petrik. As the Soviet flag was raised and its anthem played, Caslavska lowered and averted her head.

Caslavska became the heroine of the 1968 Olympics, but her public anti-Soviet display of Czechoslovakian patriotism made her an outcast upon her return to her country, which was still under Soviet influence. After years of oppression, Caslavska returned to favor once the "Velvet Revolution" ousted the Communist government in late 1989. Caslavska served as adviser to Czech President Vaclav Havel on matters of health care and welfare, and as President of the Czech National Olympic Committee.

Caslavska lives privately in Prague, but her athletic and social achievements assure her place of honor in sports and political archives around the world.

Hall of Fame Acceptance Speech

1998 Induction Ceremony
International Gymnastics Hall Of Fame
Acceptance Speech For Vera Caslavska

 

Delivered by Jackie Fie,
President, FIG Women's Technical Committee

"I am sure all of us here tonight share the same deep concern for Vera Caslavska, who is unable to attend because of a long term based illness.

"It is indeed an honor to accept this IGHOF honor on her behalf and to be able to pay tribute by remembering and highlighting a few of her attributes and signature accomplishments.

"Vera is truly one of those unique people in the category of sport, who characterizes what sport is all about, by taking it to another level in life. Her contemporary qualities of decisiveness, intellect, will, courage and femininity, visible throughout her competitive ten years, were manifested in the very way she lived and worked. She was and is a very special illumination of personalities, who created a spiritual high in sport. Through her individuality and fortitude, she made a significant contribution on a global perspective.

"What are some of these memories?
o Participation at 3 World Championships and 3 Olympic Games, from 1958 through 1968.
o 5 times winner of the Team silver; 1 x gold @ the 1966 World Championships
o 2 times Olympic All-Around Champion: in 1964, at age 22, and again in 1968, at age 26.

"Bart has already highlighted several of these accomplishments (as well as her signing, on 6/27/68, of the 2000 Words Manifesto, which enumerated specific democratic and liberal measures for immediate implementation by the Czechoslovakian government).

Do you also remember in 1968?
o 3 individual gold medals: Vault, Bars and Floor
o Her signature 'Mexican Hat Dance' accompaniment to Floor Exercise, when the predominantly Mexican audience want crazy wild
o The Balance Beam event in the Team/All-Around competition, where she eventually went on to win an individual silver, as a judging controversy erupted:

"On Balance Beam, Vera performed a sequence of: walkover forward to a needle scale, finishing with one hand under the beam on one side of the Balance Beam. She faltered slightly. Was it a balance correction (only -0.10) or a grab under the beam to maintain balance (-0.30)? Former Women's Technical Committee President Valerie Nagy, of Hungary, was trembling in the center of this controversy and judging "rhubarb." Judges on both sides of the beam (2 + 2) stood firm with their scores. The marks were 9.5 to 9.8 with an average of 9.65, with the judges on one side taking -0.30 and the other side no more than -0.10. The scores from Competition-Ia and Competition-Ib (also the All-Around) carried to the Individual Event Finals. Natalia Kutchinskaya, her rival, ultimately went on in the Finals to become the gold medalist and Olympic champion on Balance Beam.

"I mention this interesting anecdote tonight, since two people in this room were on that very panel: Larissa Latynina, her former rival in the 1964 Olympic Games, and myself, also a fellow competitor with Larissa in the 1956 Olympic Games. (Often former Olympic athletes go on to the ranks of coaching and judging in order to give back and stay involved in their beloved sport).

"The year 1968, when Vera retired from competition at age 26, was a blending of gymnastics persons involved in this ceremony tonight:

"Larissa Latynina was now judging, Vera Caslavska became the Olympic Champion, Ludmilla Toursicheva and Cathy Rigby were competing in their first Olympic Games.

"Vera was and is truly a remarkable contemporary sport figure, who gave of her admirable qualities, so that others could enjoy the gift of freedom. Vera Caslavska triumphed in our sort in the era of inspirational and feminine gymnastics. Vera, we thank you for your legacy."

Respectfully,
Jackie Fie

1960 OLYMPIC GAMES
Silver Medalist:
- Team

1961 European Championships
Bronze Medalist:
- All-Around
- Floor Exercise

1962 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Gold Medalist & World Champion:
- Floor Exercise
Silver Medalist:
- All-Around
Bronze Medalist:
- Floor Exercise

1964 OLYMPIC GAMES
Gold Medalist & Olympic Champion:
- All-Around
- Beam
- Vaulting
Silver Medalist:
- Team

1965 European Championships
Gold Medalist & European Champion:
- All-Around
- Vaulting
- Uneven Bars
- Beam
- Floor Exercise

1966 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Gold Medalist & World Champion:
- All-Around
- Vaulting
- Team
Silver Medalist:
- Beam
- Floor

1967 European Championships
Gold Medalist & European Champion:
- All-Around
- Vaulting
- Uneven Bars
- Beam
- Floor Exercise

1968 OLYMPIC GAMES
Gold Medalist & Olympic Champion:
- All-Around
- Vault
- Uneven Bars
- Floor
Silver Medalist:
- Team
- Beam

1998 Inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame

 

 

 

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