The 1952 Helsinki Olympic champion Ján Zachara still advises young boxers

Updates: 20.07.2021 09:57

Dubnica nad Váhem / Prague – From the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, he brought a gold medal to what was then Czechoslovakia, just like the couple Zátopek. He ended his active career seven years later, then started working as a coach. The boxing hall in Dubnice nad Váhem is visited several times a week to this day, even though it will celebrate its 93rd birthday at the end of August. The oldest Slovak Olympic champion Ján Zachara, who excelled in the lowest weight categories after the Second World War, still enjoys good health and boxers a few generations younger listen to his advice.

In the Olympic special podcast Brush, which ČTK is preparing as part of the new photographic exhibition Olympic Moments, has returned to the beginnings of its career, for example to its first match in Lucerne a year after the end of the war. “Arriving in Prague itself was a bit more for me. Prague is a big city and coming to Lucerna in front of 3,500 people was impressive. In a word – I was rolled out,” said a native of the village of Kubrá, which is now part of Trenčín.

To this day, he regrets that, for incomprehensible reasons, he could no longer watch the Olympics in London in 1948. A few months after the communist coup, a party official flew in his place. Four years later, Julius Torma, the Olympic champion from London, played an important role in Zachara’s departure for Helsinki.

“Julo pulled me to Baťovany, which is today’s Partizánske. I’ve always dreamed of Baťa’s school of work, I liked the uniforms, the uniformity,” Zachara said. He managed to pass the tests, but he came from such modest circumstances that he did not even have enough decent clothes to live in Baťovany. “During the summer, I only ran in shorts,” he recalled with a smile. However, when it turned out that he had a “decent” career, he could stay in Baťovany and train under the guidance of Julius Torma.

In Helsinki, the Czechoslovak team won seven gold medals, Zachara was the only Slovak among the Olympic winners at these games. “No one believed me because my character looked like I was undressing when I undressed,” Zachara joked. According to him, not only weight but also thinking decides in sports. “All I had to do was think, bounce and hit quickly. The way I fought was technical, I couldn’t rely on a punch,” said the Olympic winner of the weight category up to 57 kilograms.

The Olympic Games took place in the backdrop of the Cold War. “There was a division, but the athletes still met in the arena. The hatred that was in the air did not exist among the athletes,” he said.

According to Zachara, the current box is not as technical as before. He sees more intense relationships between people in general as a possible reason. And even though women train in the Dubnice club, Zachar doesn’t like boxing in their service. “I always see women, I’ve seen and I will always see motherhood in them. I can’t think of it. I understand when she’s an athlete, a handball player, all kinds of movement, but to get in her nose …” he remarked.

Yet all his life he claims to have chosen the finest sport. “Because the only one made in gloves. And what is made in gloves is, as they say, softness. Although ours are a little bigger,” said the boxing veteran. He is said to have never seen in boxing what the spectators want to see in him, ie the humiliation of the opponent, his mission to the ground. “It’s always been a sport for me,” Zachara said.

He looked at the Olympics in 1956, when he reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne. He was also there with Dana and Emil Zátopková, and together they completed a month-long journey home, when the Czechoslovaks traveled with the Soviets by ship to Vladivostok, then the Trans-Siberian highway to Moscow, from where they only flew to Prague.

“They were golden people, simple, thoughtless, having fun with everyone,” he said of one of the most famous couples in Olympic history. He likes to remember how society gathered around Zátopková during the free evenings at the Olympics. “We were lying on the grass, they were telling their stories, they were, as they say, teasing, very happy to sing,” said Zachara, who accompanied Dana Zátopková in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2002 at the unveiling of the Emil Zátopek statue at the Olympic Museum.

Source: České noviny – sport by

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