PRAGUE: Vera Caslavska, whose seven gold medals made her the former Czechoslovakia’s most decorated Olympic athlete, has died at 74 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Caslavska was a vocal critic of the Soviet Union’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia and was not selected to compete in the Olympics after that year’s games after refusing to withdraw her signature on the “Manifesto of 2000 Words”, which rejected Soviet involvement in the country.
Jiri Kejval, president of the Czech Olympic Committee, told local media: “Vera was a fighter. She was diagnosed last year in the spring… When she did not come with us to the Olympic Games this summer in Rio it was clear the situation was bad.”
Caslavska’s medals included golds in the individual all-round gymnastics in the 1964 and 1968 games.
Larisa Latynina is the only other female athlete to win back-to-back gold medals in that event. She won gold in 1956 and 1960 for the Soviet Union.