1963 Czechoslovakia Interviews & Profiles WAG

1963: A Profile of Vladimír Prorok, Čáslavská’s Coach

When Čáslavská won the vault title at the 1962 World Championships, Vladimír Prorok was her coach. He was the 1955 European Champion on floor exercise, and when he was coaching Čáslavská in the early 1960s, he was a relatively new but highly dedicated coach — one whom “foreign countries look up to with envy and speak of with the utmost respect.”

Note: Prorok also means “prophet” in Czech. Hence the prophecy references throughout this piece.

1963 Czechoslovakia Interviews & Profiles WAG

1963: A Profile of Luděk Martschini, Czechoslovak and Swiss Coach

Luděk Martschini was a coach in the small town of Litvínov, Czechoslovakia. One of his most notable gymnast was Jaroslava Sedláčková, who was part of the 1964 Czechoslovak team that won silver and the 1966 team that won gold. Martschini would go on to be the head coach of the Swiss women’s team during their Olympic debut in 1972.

A 1963 profile of Martschini portrayed him as a man who was devoted to his work (perhaps overly devoted?) and whose anger flared up when a gymnast did not do her homework. The denizens of the town were reluctant to embrace gymnastics, especially leotards, but once his gymnasts started winning, the town embraced gymnastics enthusiastically, and his group of trainees began to grow.

The profile touches upon well-worn topics in gymnastics coverage. For example, can a gymnast have all three — gymnastics training, a good education, and a boyfriend? “School, boyfriend, and sports are an unforgiving triangle. So far, gymnastics wins for everyone, even though school is of course a given.”

Coach of Gymnastics national team Ludek Martschini, 1971 (Photo by Blick Sport/RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
1962 Czechoslovakia Interviews & Profiles MAG World Championships

1962: A Profile of Přemysl Krbec, the Last Czechoslovak MAG World Champion

At the 1962 World Championships, Přemysl Krbec of Czechoslovakia won the gold medal on vault. This was the last time that a Czechoslovak gymnast was a world champion in men’s artistic gymnastics. Since there hasn’t been much written about Krbec, I translated a profile that was published after the 1962 World Championships in Prague.

Like many gymnasts, gymnastics was not his first love. Even though both his parents were gymnasts, he loved soccer.

Heads-up: Holub, the author of this profile, tended to be a bit fanciful in his profiles of gymnasts.

1962 Czechoslovakia Interviews & Profiles WAG

1962: Čáslavská — “Ophelia, with the Heart of a Warrior”

In 1962, Věra Čáslavská won her first all-around title at the Czechoslovak Championships, and heading into the World Championships in Prague, the expectations were high for the star of Czechoslovak gymnastics. The Czech-language sports newspaper Stadión printed an article on Čáslavská, which is part profile, part Shakespearean play, and part fairytale.

Note: A fairytale seems bizarre, but pohádky (fairytales) are a vibrant genre in Czech culture. Čáslavská even wrote one about gymnastics in her autobiography, which you can find translated here.

My Thought Bubble: That said, the combination of fairytale and Shakespearean characters is a bit bizarre, but the profile gives us an idea of how Czechoslovak journalists wrote about athletes at the time.

1962 Czechoslovakia East Germany MAG USSR WAG

1962: Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and the Soviet Union Compete before Worlds

No surprise: The Soviet men’s team defeated the Czechoslovak and East German teams, and Yuri Titov, the 1959 European All-Around Champion, won the all-around title

The surprise: Months before the Prague World Championships, the Czech and East German women defeated the Soviet team, and Čáslavská won the all-around. 

Granted, the top Soviet gymnast, Larisa Latynina, was not present. However, Čáslavská’s victory over Astakhova was a harbinger of good things to come. After finishing behind Astakhova at the 1960 Olympics (eighth compared to third) and the 1961 European Championships (tied for third compared to second), Čáslavská finally beat Astakhova during this tri-meet. Then, at the 1962 World Championships, Čáslavská finished second, defeating all the Soviet gymnasts except for Latynina.

Here’s more about the tri-meet, as well as short interviews with several of the Soviet gymnasts. An interesting question came up: Would it be correct to give the judges the optional routines written out before the competition? Not surprisingly, all the athletes said no.

1962 Czechoslovakia Floor Music

1962: Czechoslovak Floor Routines — The Story Behind the Routines

In the lead-up to the 1962 World Championships in Prague, the pages of the Czechoslovak sports periodical Stadión were filled with articles and photos related to gymnastics, one of which told the story behind three gymnasts’ floor routines: Hana Růžičková’s, Věra Čáslavská’s, and Eva Bosáková’s. It’s an interesting article, given that the extant videos do not have sound. Plus, the article contrasts the Czechoslovak style with the Soviet style.

This last point is important because, as we look back on the history of the sport, we tend to group old routines together, categorizing them all as “balletic.” But national teams made a conscientious effort to differentiate their routines and styles.

Another factor to consider: The use of music for individual floor routines was relatively new at the time. 1958 was the first time that music for women’s floor was used at a World Championships or Olympics. As a result, countries were trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t work.

1962 Czechoslovakia Interviews & Profiles

1962: A Profile of Hana Růžičková, the 1961 ČSSR Champion

Hana Růžičková didn’t want to be a gymnast. She dreamed of wearing white skating boots, but when those boots never materialized, she started gymnastics in 1956 at the age of fifteen. By 1960, she was a member of the Czechoslovak team that won silver at the Rome Olympics, and one year later, in 1961, Hana Růžičková was the surprise champion of the Czechoslovak Championships. (Věra Čáslavská fell off beam, and Růžičková was able to capitalize on it.) 

What follows is a translation of a profile on Růžičková. It was printed in February of 1962, a few weeks after her win at the 1961 Czechoslovak Championships. Not only does it tell the story of a gymnast from a small village who had to balance work, training, and a long commute, but it also raises broader questions, such as: At what age should athletes start special training?

[Note: The age at which Růžičková started gymnastics sometimes varies in articles. For example, the report on the 1961 Championships suggested that she started in 1958.]

1961 Czechoslovakia MAG WAG

1961: Šťastný and Růžičková Win the Czechoslovak Championships

In 1961, the Czechoslovak Championships were exciting on the women’s side. Coming into the championships, Věra Čáslavská was the clear favorite. At the Rome Olympics in 1960, she finished eighth in the all-around, the highest finish among the Czechoslovak gymnasts. Then, she tied for third at the 1961 European Championships, finishing behind Larisa Latynina and Polina Astakhova. But, despite her promising international results, Čáslavská had never won a senior national all-around title. 

In 1961, it seemed like the title would finally be Čáslavská’s, but she fell off the beam. And Czechoslovak star Eva Bosáková had a major error on bars. Hana Růžičková was able to capitalize on those mistakes and win the Czechoslovak title. (East German gymnast Ute Starke was a foreign guest and technically had the highest all-around title in the competition.)

On the men’s side, the competition was more anti-climactic. Jaroslav Šťastný, the best gymnast on the Czechoslovak team at the 1961 European Championships, took home the title. (Though, Aleksander Rokosa, a Polish guest, technically had the highest all-around total in the competition.)

Here’s a bit more about the competition.

1968 Czechoslovakia Interviews & Profiles WAG

1968: An Interview with Čáslavská before the Olympics

Right before the Mexico City Olympics, the Czech-language magazine Reportér printed a long interview with Věra Čáslavská. It covered a wide range of topics: her relationship with the media, her superstitions, her relationship with her coach, her first World Championships, and more.

You can read a translation below…

1967 Czechoslovakia Interviews & Profiles WAG

1967: Coach Matlochová Discusses Čáslavská’s Preparation for Mexico City

At the end of 1967, Věra Čáslavská was on top of the gymnastics world. She had won the all-around at the 1964 Olympics, the 1965 European Champions, the 1966 World Championships, and the 1967 European Championships. In fact, at the 1965 and 1967 European Championships, she swept the gold medals, and in 1967, she scored two perfect 10s.

But how do you ensure that a golden gymnast stays golden? That was the question that the reporter Robert Bakalář posed to Jaroslava Matlochová, Čáslavská’s coach, in an interview published at the end of 1967.

Note: Matlochová would become a part of the Women’s Technical Committee in 1968.