Vera Caslavska - twice the Olympic AA Gold Champion!!
A member of the Czechoslovakian
national gymnastics team for ten years, Caslavska enjoyed unparalleled success on the international scene.
To this day she holds the record for the most gold medals won on
individual events. In the 1965 and 1967 European Championships
alone, Caslavska captured 10 gold medals - completely sweeping
the medal stands. Caslavska is best known though, for her
victorious performances at the 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico City
Olympics. She is only the second woman in gymnastics
history, after Soviet Larissa Latynina, to win two Olympic AA
came close to missing her second Olympic appearance. Leading up to the
1968 Olympics, she became enmeshed in political reform and was
forced to flee from authorities to escape imprisonment. As
outlined by Minot Simons II in his fabulous and much recommended Women's
Gymnastics - A History, Volume 1 1966 to 1974, on June 27, 1968, Czechoslovakian Communist Party
member Ludvik Vaculik published a manifesto, expresing concern
about elements of the Communist party and advocating liberal and
democratic chance. Having signed the manifesto, Caslavska found
herself having to flee from authorities. Relatively safe in the
remote town of Sumperk, Caslavska found herself without training
facilities. Instead, she stayed in shape by lifting sacks of
Days leading up to the 1968
Olympics, Caslavska was grated permission to compete in the 1968
Olympics. Despite the fact that she (unlike all of her
competitors) had not had time to acclimate to Mexico City,
Caslavska succesfully defended her Olympic crown, pleasing fans
and judges alike her Mexican Hat Dance floor routine. At
these Olympics (at least I think it was at this
competition), Caslavska performed a further act of defiance: on
the podium, she snubbed the Soviets - evidence of her disapproval
of the Communist stronghold over Czechoslovakia.
One short day after competing in
the event finals (where she medalled on all four events),
Caslavska married Czechoslovakian 1500m runner Josef Odlozil.
Caslavska emmersed herself into writing (her autobiography) and
motherhood (raising son Martin and daughter Radka).
Caslavska quickly learned that
Communist authorities had not forgotten her acts of betrayal.
Attempts to get her autobiography published were squelched, and
when a Japanese company agreed to it's publication, the
Czechoslovakian government insisted that parts deemed
unacceptable be removed. Repeated attempts to get a coaching job
with the National gymnastics team were denied, and when she was
finally granted employment, she was forbidden to travel with her
Several years later, the Mexican
president requested that Caslavska be able to revisit Mexico. The
Czechoslovakian government, eager to improve ties with Mexico,
relinquished her. Caslavska spent the next two years coaching the
Mexican national team.
Time unfortunately healed no
wounds. Back home in Czechoslovakia, Caslavska was once again
ostracized. Only after Juan Antonio Samaranch's repeated attempts
to present her with the Olympic order, did Caslavska enjoy some
freedom. She was permitted to join the European Gymnastics Union,
coach the National gymnastics team (in preparation for the 1988
Seoul Olympics) and judge international competitions (e.g., 1986
Following the Czechoslovakian
revolution for independence, Caslavska found herself a national
heroine. She was offered a number of prestigious positions (e.g,
Minister of Sports Affirs, Ambassador to Japan, Candidate for
Mayor of Prague, etc.), accepting the position of President of
the Czech National Olympic Commitee.
Her life seemingly "on
track" once again, it was not long before Caslavska faced a
new kind of turmoil. Her son, Martin Odlozil, was convicted of
the murder of his father (Caslavska's husband), Josef Odlozil.
Martin allegedly punched Josef, causing him to fall to the floor
and strike his head. In 1997 however, the German press agency
reported that Czech President Vaclav Havel pardoned Martin
following a campaign by Czech citizens and former Olympians.
A member of the Women's
International Hall of Fame, Caslavska had also been inducted into
the FIG Hall of Fame. Sadly,
Caslavska's health has deteriorated over the years, and she was
unable to travel to accept her award. Today Caslavska spends much
time with her children, at home and in the hospital.
In 1999, a group of 78 Czech experts and journalists gathered to vote on the
best Czech Olympian of the Century. Caslavska came in second, after runner Emil
. This page was created on July
30th, 1999 and last updated on December 16, 1999.