Vera Caslavska (TCH)

1958 World Championships: 8th AA
1959 European Championships: 8th AA, 2nd V, 1st BB
1960 Olympics: 8th AA, 6th BB
1961 European Championships: 3rd AA, 3rd FX
1962 Worlds: 2nd T, 2nd AA, 1st V, 3rd FX
1964 Olympics: 2nd T, 1st AA, 1st V, 5th UB, 1st BB, 6th FX
1965 European Championships: 1st AA, 1st V, 1st UB, 1st BB, 1st FX
1966 Worlds: 1st AA, 1st V, 4th UB, 2nd BB, 1st FX
1967 European Championships: 1st AA, 1st V, 1st UB, 1st BB, 1st FX
1968 Olympics: 1st AA, 1st V, 1st UB, 2nd BB, 1st FX (tie)

The majority of these results were compiled from information found at Gymn Forum

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 titles.

Interestingly, Caslavska 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 potatoes.

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 gymnasts.

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 World Cup).

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 Zatopek.

. This page was created on July 30th, 1999 and last updated on December 16, 1999.

 

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