Věra Čáslavská


Věra Časlavská, the most successful Czech athlete, a national symbol of courage. She won three gold medals at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, four years later at the Mexico City Olympics she added four more gold medals and two silver ones. She remains the only gymnast, male or female, to have won an Olympic gold medal in each individual event. They were not just her sporting achievements that stunned the world and made her the world’s best sportswoman of the year 1968. It was also her attitude towards the occupation of Czechoslovakia. During the Olympic medal awarding ceremony, she expressed her disapproval of the Soviet invasion of her country. In reaction, the communists erased her from public space for two decades and her name was banned to be mentioned in media. She was forced into retirement and denied the right to travel, work and attend sporting events. Only at the end of the 1970s, based on an offer from the president of Mexico, she was allowed to work as a gymnast coach in his country. After the fall of communism in 1989, she became an advisor to President Václav Havel for the areas of education, healthcare and physical education.