AN ACTIVIST IN TRAINING
Following the crackdown by the Soviets of Alexander Dubcek’s socialism with a human face in 1968, Věra signed the “Two Thousand Words” manifesto, calling for democratic reforms and greater freedom in her homeland. Soviet tanks entered Prague in August of that year. Fearful of being arrested, she fled into hiding in the Jeseník mountains in the village of Šumperk for her final weeks of training for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. She stayed in shape by swinging from trees, practicing her floor exercise in a meadow and balance beam routine on a log, lifting sacks of potatoes and shoveling coal to keep her hands from going soft. The government allowed her to join the rest of the Czech team in Mexico City shortly before the start of the Games. Before leaving for the Games she said, “I would sacrifice all my medals so far for this year's victory. Because I'm not fighting for myself, but for all of us. And our people deserve victory.”
Věra Časlávská performing on the balance beam.
Photo courtesy of the Czech Olympic Committee