Gymnasts of the Future

By Pavel Vokurka

Czechoslovak Life, 5/84   Marketka Kordova is twelve.  "Let's go, Marketka," the coach says, and starts the tape with recorded musical accompaniment.  The clubs soar high as the girl's body arches before she makes a somersault and stands up again.  The clubs still appear to be hanging in mid-air but when they fall, they are too fast for the girl.  She catches only one, the other hits the carpet.  The girl interrupts the sequence, as if a film had stopped.

"You mustn't do that, Marketka.  When a club falls, let it lie and carry on.  You must fight..."

Fight?  Girls are fragile creatures, and modern gymnastics is a girls' sport.  Is there place in it for a combative spirit?

"Modern gymnastics is just like any other sport, and it too requires aggressiveness.  Of course, nothing like football tackles or hockey body-checks which are often on the brink of mayhem but the tension of all top-performance sport is known to all gymnasts.  They must know that they must go after the clubs or the ball when it flies farther than they are used to from practice sessions, that they must pick them up and continue the composition.  In other sports, it is possible to engage in some theatricals after a mistake but in modern gymnastics, the performance must not be interrupted whatever may have happened...."

The Coach

Her name is Marie Cizikova and she was a national champion three times.  As a coach, she led her girls to the silver medal at the world championships in Rotterdam in 1973, and to the bronze in Munich in 1981 in team programs.  She also trained Marcela Klingerova, five-times Czechoslovak champion.

She is now in charge of the Czechoslovak team for the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Two Danielas

Zahorovska and Bosanska are two of the three girls in training for the Olympics.  Daniela Zahorovska, 17, is the youngest of the three.  "I took up modern gymnastics when I was five.  It was my mother's doing.  Since then, I came first and second several times at Czechoslovak championships, and took fourth place overall in the Intervision Cup.  In modern gymnastics, there are also competitions in individual apparatus.  I like the hoop best, but I am now practicing a new composition with a ball.  It is something entirely new, and I love it.  At the Olympics, unlike at the world and European championships, there will be only the combined competition.  If I make the Olympic team, I will do everything to come among the top ten.  The 'rest of the world' has no chance against Bulgaria and Soviet girls but from the fourth place down, it will be a wide open contest..."

"When I talk about Bulgarian gymnasts, although I have never had an example to emulate, I must admit that I admire Ignatova very much.  I think that her concept of modern gymnastics is precisely what it should be -- a sport that is exclusively the domain of girls.  It is an aesthetic experience to do and to watch.  There is something more than just difficulty in the various figures.  And of course, it is also hard work.  We have practice sessions five, six times a week, and sometimes one has barely the strength to walk home afterwards.  But I have never even thought of quitting..."

The most experienced of the contenders for the Olympic nomination is Daniela Bosanska, three-times overall champion of Czechoslovakia, and with countless titles in individual events.  At the European championships in Madrid in 1978, she won the silver for her program with the ribbon; a year later, at the world championships in London, she came first in the clubs, in 1980 at the European championships in Amsterdam she took third place, and had a number of placings among the top six.

"I am completely different from our 'young' Daniela, and I had my idol -- the Soviet gymnast Galima Shugurova.  One day, she performed at an exhibition in our city, and signed my t-shirt.  I slept in it several nights.  And when I competed at my first European championships, they were Shugurova's last.  She won the title, and I came fourth, only five hundredths of a point separating me from the bronze.

"I wanted to quit several times because I take my sport too intensely.  I don't even know how many competitions ended with me bawling.  And yet I took up modern gymnastics because I was intractable, always full of energy which had to be vented, at home and at school.  But finally, of course, I came to love the sport so much that it doesn't matter any longer where I come.  The most important thing for me it to have the public enjoy my performance.  I am happy when people applaud me."

The Future

For the two Danielas, the nearest future is nomination for the Olympics.  For the others, more years of dedication to their sport.  For the young Marketka Kordova, who has much to look forward to, many years of systematic practice.  She knows it, and when she picks up the club she did not catch, she looks at the coach guiltily.  But what she hears is only her calm instruction:  "Okay, Marketka, one more from the beginning..." the soft whirring of the tape being rewound, and then, the first bars of the accompaniment.  Once more, the clubs sail up to the ceiling.

This page was created on April 27, 2002.
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