Service for Věra Čáslavská

Gymnast is remembered for her silent protest at the 1968 Olympics

A memorial service for gymnast Věra Čáslavská, who died at Aug. 30 at age 74, was held for family and friends at the National Theatre on Monday, Sept. 12. The public was able to watch the event on Czech Television. It was moderated by Marek Eben.

She won 22 international titles between 1959 and '68 including seven Olympic gold medals, four world titles and eleven European championships. She was the most decorated Czech gymnast ever. She is also one of only two female gymnasts to win the all-around gold medal at two consecutive Olympics. The other was Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.

In the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City she made a silent protest of then-recent Soviet-led invasion by looking down when the Soviet national anthem was played. After that, though, she could no longer travel to foreign sports events, and her career was effectively over until after the Velvet Revolution of 1989, when she once again achieved some fame and popularity.

The memorial will not be a state funeral so there will be no honor guard. Other athletes spoke at the service, such as rower Ondřej Synek, snowboarder Eva Samková and sports shooter Jan Kůrka.

The Ministry of Education and Sports participated in the event, Minister Kateřina Valachová said. “We want to honor her memory, and share the things in life that she enjoyed,” she added. The event will include some video clips of ballet and theater performances, and a montage from a documentary about her. There will also be short live performances relating to her life and her protest for democracy.

The public has been placing candles and wreaths at a small temporary monument for Čáslavská at the plaza of the National Theatre since the news broke last week.

Čáslavská's body was cremated Sept. 8 in Šumperk and there was a small ceremony at a church in Bělá pod Pradědem.

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