Jaroslava Matlochová was a fixture of the gymnastics community for decades — both as a coach and as a member of the Women’s Technical Committee. In fact, she was one of the early champions of relying on younger gymnasts in women’s artistic gymnastics. Yet, little has been written about her online.
So, here’s a translation of a profile on her, printed in Stadión just after the Czechoslovak women’s team took gold at the Dortmund World Championships.
Bohumila Řimnáčová was a member of the Czechoslovak team that won gold at the 1966 World Championships, silver at the 1968 Olympic Games, and bronze at the 1970 World Championships. Injuries prevented her from competing at the 1964 Olympic Games.
The following profile, printed in Stadión before the Dortmund World Championships in 1966, traces Řimnáčová’s career that took off after she answered a newspaper ad. Like many Czech gymnasts from this era, she originally wanted to be a figure skater.
At the 1962 World Championships, Anikó Ducza won a bronze medal on balance beam. Then, she had a child, which made her question whether she would be able to make Hungary’s 1964 team for the Olympics. Not only did she make the team, but she won a bronze medal on floor in Tokyo.
In the lead-up to the 1964 Olympics, Hungarian newspapers ran several interviews with her and her husband, who was a volleyball player for Hungary. The two articles below offer a glimpse into the challenges and doubts of a mother returning to gymnastics.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.]
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.
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.