Thursday, November 14, 2013

Vera Caslavska Hall of Fame Induction Speech

Last night, I was tumbling down my YouTube gymnastics hole, as per usual, when I came across 1968 Olympic gold medalist Vera Caslvaska's International Gymnastics Hall of Fame speech.

For those of you unfamiliar with her, check out the "package" that was put together to explain her accomplishments and reasons for induction.

As the video shows, Caslvaska signaled her protest over the Soviets' judging chicanery and invasion of her homeland of Czechoslovakia by turning her head down and away during the Soviet national anthem. She paid dearly for this protest, and it wasn't until the fall of Communism that was she able to emerge again.

This was not forgotten in her speech. At the start, she apologizes to the English speaking audience:

I am sorry that I am unable to speak to your language. However, because of the political situation, I had to learn to speak Russian, which I speak fluently. 


She also speaks quite honestly throughout about the suffering she endured as a result of the stand she took. Ever since I've learned of Caslvaska, I've respected her. Unlike the later gold medalists and stars of the sport, she wasn't a young girl being dominated by adults; she was a grown woman, politically active, making choices for herself and dealing with the consequences. Though she probably couldn't know the extent of her punishment, she probably knew that act of defiance on the medal podium was going to cost her.

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