If a prize could be awarded for
rhythmic longevity, it would undoubtedly go to Lenka Oulehlova. In her 9-year
gymnastics career, the former Czech champion has competed in an unprecedented
seven World Championships, five European Championships, three Olympic Games, one
Universiade, and almost countless Grand Prix events.
Born June 14, 1973, Oulehlova
trained at the CITY Morevska Slavia Brno club under coach Zdenka Schinzelova.
The tall blonde began gymnastics relatively late, at 10 years old, but trained
more than 30 hours per week as an elite athlete. Her hard work paid off quickly,
and Oulehlova was instrumental in raising the profile of the former
Czechloslovakia, which, after early rhythmic success, had fallen into a
decades-long slump. A green, 14-year-old Oulehlova debuted with a 30th-place
finish at the 1987 World Championships. In 1988, she jumped several notches,
finishing 22nd at both the European Championships and Olympic Games. But the
lovely stylist first made a splash in 1989, when she placed 12th at the World
Championships and qualified to event finals with rope.
At the 1990 European Championships,
Oulehlova had an error-ridden preliminary competition, but still managed to
climb to 10th place. She continued with solid work through 1991, finishing 5th
at the Schmiden International, 10th at the European Cup Final, and 16th at World
A handful of silver and bronze
medals at the 1992 Medico Cup kicked off Oulehlova's second Olympic quest. After
a 16th-place finish at European Championships, she fought her way to 8th
position at the 1992 Olympics. Oulehlova took 9th at the World Championships one
month later, and qualified to two event finals.
Despite an increasingly young and
talented field and the breakup of her country, Oulehlova managed to hold her own
in 1993. Competing for the Czech Republic, she was 12th at the European Cup
Final, 6th at Gymnastics Masters, 14th at Corbeil, and 18th at World
Championships. In 1994, the stately gymnast counted two more consistent showings
-- a familiar 16th at European Championships, and 13th at World Championships.
She also grabbed the all-around silver at the Czech Cup that same year.
In 1995, the "ancient"
22-year-old earned a cache of silvers at the Koop Cup, then firmly established
herself in 8th at the World University Games, where she also won a bronze with
clubs. She dropped to 30th at the 1995 World Championships, but was a welcome
mature presence throughout the competition. After finishing 2nd at the San
Francisco Invitational in 1996, Oulehlova impressed for 7th at the DTB Cup and
14th at Corbeil. She was a strong 12th at European Championships, as well. At
her third Olympic Games -- a record for a rhythmic gymnast -- the veteran
performed a bit shakily and just missed the cut to finals. She finished 22nd,
the same position in which she finished at her first Olympics eight years
Oulehlova completed the competitive
season -- and an exceptional career -- with a bronze-medal win at the 1996
Gymnastics Masters and 7th place at the Grand Prix Final. But after an amazing
13 years in the sport, Oulehlova finally decided to retire.
Oulehlova was a gymnast with an
understated yet elegant style. Her body and apparatus technique were classically
Eastern European, but she exhibited a modern flair in both her music choices and
choreography. Her best apparatus was ball, where she demonstrated a wonderful
light touch and a symbiotic relationship with the apparatus.
Lenka Oulehlova did not leave
rhythmic behind after her retirement. She now manages and coaches at her own
club in Prague, Czech Republic, where she trains young National Team hopefuls.
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