August 1, 2021

LOH 2021 Tokyo | The flower bloomed in Tokyo. How the Japanese fell in love with the Czech legend

Karel Novák

At the age of 22, she traveled to Tokyo as one of the favorites, but two years earlier she became the world champion in jumping. But the star of the games was supposed to be Larisa Latyninová from the Soviet Union, who had already been awarded seven Olympic gold medals.

However, the Metropolitan Gymnasium, a majestic stand with a high ceiling near the main Olympic Stadium, was particularly impressed by the native of Prague. Gold from all-around, jump and balance beam, but maybe even more so with his heroic performance on parallel bars.

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As the winner of the qualification and the main favorite, her hand slipped during the final set and ended up on the ground. The chance for a triumph was gone, but Čáslavská did not give up. “I jumped on the parallel bars and embroidered the line-up like never before. It was such a gift for the Japanese, “she confessed. She also showed the enthusiastic fans a unique double twist from the hang known as the Ultra C.

Věra Čáslavská (center) with a gold medal from the balance beam at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, on the left a silver Tamara Maninová, on the right a bronze Latissa Latyninová from the Soviet Union.

She became a darling of the fans, she received a prized samurai sword from one of them, she earned the nickname Flower of the Tokyo Olympics. When she wanted to go to the store at the end of the games, the planned small purchase became an endless autograph session.

And Čáslavská enjoyed her popularity properly. “She never wanted to come out unedited. We wanted to sleep and Verka was taking curlers. We got up in the morning and Věrka was back on her feet, with curled up curls, preparing her nice bun. She did her best to be popular and the Japanese loved her, “recalls her teammate Adolfína Tačová.

She was superstitious

Luckily, the gymnastic queen of the Tokyo Games tried to go opposite. “She was very superstitious, she always had to find a broken piece of glass, otherwise Věrka bore it badly. Fortunately, it has always been resolved somehow. For example, in the dining room, the waiter tripped, broke the glass and a shard was lucky. Maybe someone tripped his legs on purpose, “Tačová recalls with a smile.

The Japanese did not forget Čáslavská even long after the Olympics. She was happy to return to Tokyo, received by Emperor Hirohito, received a rare kimono, and in 2010 received the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese Ambassador in Prague, the highest award given for spreading Japanese culture.

Games without snags

At the time when she was an adviser to President Václav Havel, there was even a variant in the game that she would work as an ambassador to Japan, but after the family tragedy it came to an end.

When she returned to social life in full force, she enthusiastically received the news in 2013 that the Olympic Games would return to Tokyo. “It was a hilarious Olympics without a hitch at the time. Everything clicked, not for minutes, but for seconds. When the bus was supposed to arrive at 16.23, he was there at 16.23. They will definitely do it now, “she was convinced.

“Only the Olympic Village was very large, as the buildings did not build as high. So we moved on wheels. There was always something lying somewhere, so the athlete took it, reached the other end of the village and put it back there. There were just a few of them, we almost fought for them, “Čáslavská recalled and believed that she would return to Tokyo, Olympic.

“When I’m fit, I’m happy to arrive, I love Japan,” she confessed. Unfortunately, her wish was no longer fulfilled, she succumbed to a serious illness in 2016.


Profiles of Czech sports stars and interviews with the biggest medal hopes for the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo 2021, which they begin on July 23 and end on August 8 and where a total of 115 Czech athletes are in action.