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.
With three months to go until the World Championships, the Czechoslovak women’s team looked strong at the national championships. Not only did Čáslavská score a 10.0 on floor, but they had seven gymnasts score a 76.00 or better in the all-around.
On the men’s side, there was much rumination about what went wrong in Tokyo. At the 1962 World Championships, the Czechoslovak men were third. At the 1964 Olympic Games, they dropped to sixth. Sotorník, the head coach of the team, even mentions his team’s work with a psychologist.
Here’s the coverage of the 1966 Czechoslovak Championships from the sports magazine Stadión.
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.
The Czechoslovak men’s team used to be the strongest program in the world. The Czech Sokols won the team titles at the 1907, 1911, 1913, 1922, 1926, 1930, and 1938 World Championships. After World War II, Czechoslovakia’s highest finish at the World Championships was third (1958 and 1962).
So, what happened? Why was their program struggling? In 1963, Stadión ran an article that offered several theories on this topic. The main concern was a lack of depth.
This lack of depth was, in part, due to the amount of dedication that gymnastics takes. “Gymnastics needs all of one’s free time. And so the boys leave and are content to perform some kind of handstand or somersault in the swimming pool.”
Another reason was Czechoslovakia’s mandatory military service, which happened at an age when male gymnasts are just starting to gain the strength required for high-level gymnastics. One unit — Dukla in Prague — was good at developing gymnasts while those who go to other military units do not progress. As a result, many male gymnasts’ development fell by the wayside at the age of 19.
In addition to the question of depth, there was a lack of consistency in the training methodologies throughout the various regions. And generally speaking, there seemed to be misguided routine composition among the top Czechoslovak men.
In 1963, Japanese gymnasts traveled to Czechoslovakia for a dual meet. Not surprisingly, the Soviets, specifically Yuri Titov, made a trip to Czechoslovakia to film the routines, and the East Germans were there with their notepads.
According to an article in the Czechoslovak sports magazine Stadión, the Japanese men’s artistic gymnasts were breaking new ground on rings and high bar, while the Czechoslovak women’s artistic gymnasts were showing original elements on beam and floor. (Though, the Japanese women’s artistic gymnasts were the queens of turns on beam.)
Here’s a short account of what happened.
Reminder: This was a competition between the top teams in the world. The Czechoslovak men’s team finished third at the 1962 World Championships while the Japanese men finished first. The Czechoslovak women’s team finished second in 1962 while the Japanese women finished third.
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.