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 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.]

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.

1965 Interviews & Profiles USSR WAG

1965: An Interview with Larisa Petrik, AKA Larisa the Second

In 1964, Larisa Petrik, who was 15 at the time, defeated Larisa Latynina at the USSR Championships. It was big news within the Soviet Union. Months later, both Larisas were set to attend the European Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, where Latynina ended up finishing second in the all-around while Petrik was fourth. (Petrik tied for third on beam, winning her first medal at a major international competition.)

As you can imagine, the media enjoyed having two gymnasts with the same name. The Estonian newspaper Spordileht ran an interview with Larisa Petrik, calling her “Larisa the Second.”

What follows is a translation of the article.

1965 European Championships Interviews & Profiles USSR WAG

1965: An Interview with Latynina before the European Championships

The gymnastics world had many questions for Latynina in the lead-up to the 1965 European Championships.

What did Latynina think about taking second place to Věra Čáslavská at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics? What did she think about taking second place to Larisa Petrik at the 1964 USSR Championships? Did she think she still had a chance to win the European Championships in 1965? What did she think of the current state of gymnastics with its ever-increasing difficulty, as epitomized by Čáslavská?

These are some of the questions that Latynina addressed in an interview printed in the Estonian sports magazine Spordileht on May 14, 1965, right before the European Championships in Sofia, where Latynina finished second behind Čáslavská.

Copyright: imago/United Archives; European Gymnastics Championships, 1965, Sofia, Bulgaria. Pictured on the podium are gold medalist Věra Čáslavská of Czechoslovakia, silver medalist Larisa Latynina of the Soviet Union (left), and bronze medalist Radochla of the German Democratic Republic. 22nd May 1965.
1971 European Championships Interviews & Profiles USSR WAG

1971: An Interview with Lazakovich and Tourischeva before the European Championships

Just days before the 1971 European Championships, Nedelia, a weekly illustrated newspaper, ran an interview with Tamara Lazakovich and Ludmilla Tourischeva. (By the way, Lazakovich quit gymnastics, and the coach had to convince her to come back.)

In the same issue, another article looked at the state of Soviet gymnastics, comparing Lazakovich’s and Tourischeva’s distinct styles: “Wave and stone, poetry and prose, ice and fire — Tourischeva and Lazakovich.”

In addition, the article lamented that 13-year-old Nina Dronova could not participate in the European Championships due to her age, and it worried that she might tire of gymnastics before she had her chance to shine on the international stage.

Reminder: At the 1970 FIG Congress, the women’s artistic gymnastics delegates voted to lower the competitive age to 14.

What follows is a translation of the article on the state of Soviet gymnastics, as well as the interview with Lazakovich and Tourischeva (Nedelia, October 11, 1971).

Ludmilla Tourischeva, 1970 World Championships
1969 Interviews & Profiles USSR

1969: Head Coaches Larisa Latynina and Vladimir Smolevsky on the USSR Championships

After the USSR Championships in October of 1969, the Moscow newspaper Nedelia interviewed the head coaches of the women’s and men’s national teams: Larisa Latynina and Vladimir Smolevsky.

But instead of asking them about their respective teams, Latynina had to comment on men’s gymnastics, and Smolevsky had to comment on women’s gymnastics. It’s fascinating to see what each coach admires about the other discipline and what irks them, as well. For example, Smolevsky despises “bad ballet” on floor.

What follows is a translation of their remarks. (Thanks to Luba for her assistance.)