Vera Caslavska And The Amazing Story Of Her 1968 Olympics

Grace Higgins | March 20th, 2020

Mexico City in 1968 was brimming, hosting the Olympic games with champions being made every step of the way. And there were many life-changing decisions during this time by athletes taking a stand in the world of politics. Many made their disdain for their government’s decisions known well on the podium. What was the most iconic moment? Well, many would say it was Tommie Smith’s black power salute – but today we are going to talk about something else.

bbci.co.uk

The protest was from Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska, which was in regard to the Soviet-led invasion of her country just two weeks earlier. Her protest was more subtle but still noticed, she turned away from the Soviet Union flag which she advised was representing her invaders.

And though the action was very subtle, even understated, not really noticed. The ramifications were immense, as we learned later from another gymnast Mary Prestidge. As part of an exchange program, Prestidge had spent time training with Caslavska to train for the Mexico Games. Caslavska was already a superstar having won multiple gold medals in the Tokyo Olympics of 1964.

But in August 1968 she was forced into hiding due to the Soviet Union led invasion of Czechoslovakia. With the Olympic Games just two months away she should have been training hard in a gymnasium. Instead, she found herself shoveling coal to toughen up her hands and training on a makeshift balance beam. She had to stay in hiding as she was a known figure that spoke out against the Soviet Union.

It didn’t take her long though to show up in the limelight, while most athletes from the Soviet Union found themselves being booed. Caslavska was able to captivate the home audience with a routine that featured Mexican hat dance music.

Of course, this did not sit well with the USSR as they could not have Caslavska standing at the top of the podium better than their athletes. So they paid off the judges, and scores were revised. In the end, Caslavska did win gold medals but she shared first place with Larisa Petrik from the USSR. This meant the USSR flag would be raised also at the same level as the Czech flag.

Unfortunately, the tragedies did not end there for Caslavska who would be forced into retirement when she returned home and put under house arrest. She did not see society again until 20 years later when the Soviet Union collapsed and she was able to start coaching gymnastics.

Next Article
  • Sally Ride First American Women In Space

    On June 18, 1983, NASA Astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman to enter space. She launched with her four crewmates on the Shuttle Challenger, on mission STS-7. The ride had been selected with five other women to be part of NASA’s space program back in 1978. With the advances of the space shuttles...

    Read More
  • Reindeer In A WW2 Submarine

    One of the more unusual moments of World War II was when a British submarine transported around a reindeer it had been given by the Russians as a gift. In 1941, the crew of the HMS Trident was given a reindeer by the USSR navy. The reindeer then spent the next 6 weeks living with...

    Read More
  • Archduke Franz Ferdinand Killed Over 300,000 Animals While Hunting

    Over one hundred years ago, the heir to the Astro Hungarian throne was a crazy guy called Franz. Well Archduke Franz Ferdinand to be exact, his assassination led to the turn of events that caused the start of World War I. Pulling in the Russian Empire, Germany, France, Italy, China, and the U.S. into one...

    Read More
  • The Legend Of Snake Rock In Naka Cave

    Naka Cave is found in Phu Langka National Park in Thailand, and in Thai it means snake. There is a real reason for this, the cave looks like a giant snake. The texture of the stones appears to resemble the scaled skin of a snake. Over the years there have been hundreds of articles publishing...

    Read More
  • Wife Carrying Is An Extreme Sport In Finland

    Over fifty men happily sling their wives or partners over their shoulders and run off into the race. An hour-long gruel through the Finnish town of Sonkajarvi and thousands of fans will be cheering them on. This is the extreme sport of wife-carrying in Finland. The World Wife Carrying Championships is now well into its...

    Read More
  • Aeschylus The Ancient Writer Killed By A Falling Tortoise

    Aeschylus is often regarded as the creator of the tragic genre. He is one of the early Greek writers whose plays have survived into the modern era, the other two being Sophocles and Euripides. Arguably, he is also the founder of serious Greek drama. Mostly we find that he added many more characters into his...

    Read More
  • For Europeans Hershey’s Chocolate Tastes Like Vomit

    If you ask any American they may tell you that Hershey’s is the chocolate to buy. But, if you ever offer one to a European then you may find they grimace at the thought. That is because, for anyone used to eating European chocolates, Hershey’s will taste like vomit. It is kind of like a...

    Read More