The greatest gymnast of her generation, winner of seven Olympic gold medals
When Simone Biles won four gold medals in Rio last month, she was the latest in a line of charismatic female gymnasts whose Olympic acrobatics have captured imaginations far beyond the world of sport. Nadia Comăneci (in 1976) and Olga Korbut (1972) are two famous examples. But Věra Čáslavská, who has died aged 74, was the first and the bravest.
Čáslavská’s seven Olympic golds, won in Tokyo in 1964 and Mexico City in 1968, included back-to-back golds as best all-round gymnast, an achievement matched only once in Olympic history. The second of these was won by a points margin unparalleled until Biles’s 2016 triumph – and marked the culmination of a four-year period in which Čáslavská won 19 individual gold medals at major international championships. She remains the only gymnast, male or female, to have won Olympic gold in every individual event. But what made her a global celebrity was not the number of her triumphs, but her character.