Alena Bartošová

* 1944

  • "I would say that I don't regret playing sports, whatever sport you do, it does bring out some aspirations in you to prove that you are better at something than the other person, whatever it is. And I have the greatest respect for anyone who can overcome normality. And they just don't have to do a top sport, but they find themselves in something and it brings them satisfaction and they are just contented, and that's what I am." - "Because that's what I was going to ask, and I don't have to anymore. But I'll ask one more thing after all. Work. When you were doing top sports, you were working at the neonatal and pediatrics [ward]. Could we say that one helped you in the other? When you went from racing and playing sports to the hospital? You were in a different surroundings, working with kids is great, you were still helping them, which is great too. Is it fair to say that the combination was beneficial for you?" - "For me for sure, that's why I didn't want to leave the health care system to go to the army system where it would have been easier for me to train. But I liked working in the hospital and I was telling myself: When I am done with sports I will be able to go on working smoothly because I never left there. I had a lot of friends at work, too. Doctors and supervisors were nice to me and I like to see them even now. I think that's quite nice."

  • "I'll jump back four years, if I may, to 1968, what was before, the relaxed atmosphere. The Prague Spring, the efforts for more democracy and for freedom. And then the shock of 21 August. How did you experience that time?" - "I spent that evening and night at home, we heard suddenly that something was happening. Planes were flying over us, it was difficult. We turned on the radio at night, and suddenly we heard terrible news. So we even cried." - "Were you already married?" - "I was already with my husband." - "And in Jablonec you came into contact with the occupation troops?" - "I know that through Plavy and through Tanvald, one convoy after another were streaming towards Prague." - "Did you see them too? Was it very difficult?" - "I did. It was hard. Guys somewhere thought they could do something if they went to track and stop them, but there was no chance." - "And what about the time after that, when the expectation that things would be better, that things would change, was replaced by disappointment. How did you feel about it?" - "It was tough, but because we had the sport, we got our teeth into training, to get out of everyday life. It showed in the fact that when we went to races, we didn't make friends with them [the Soviets]. They were shouted at. But it wasn't the racers' fault either. We had friends among them, they were unhappy about it themselves. But these things, when the gentlemen at the top decide something, it's terribly complicated."

  • "Well, there's always lot of work in health care. It's not like you go there to have a rest. You started at six in the morning, at two you finished, you had enough. But I enjoyed the work, I liked it, and I also carried on going to sport training. It happened to me once that as there were cubicles in the hospital, and along the cubicles there was a glass corridor and a baby cot at the end of the corridor, that we had to process paperwork at night. We were writing things down, but I had been training and I was awfully tired. My eyes were closing while I was writing, so I got up and walked down the hall to get moving. I got to the end of the hallway and bumped my forehead against the bed, I fell asleep walking, I was so awfully tired... The other nurse asked what I was doing. 'Sorry, I fell asleep standing up.' It was tough, the sport training and the work, but I loved it."

  • "They tried to create ideal conditions for the foreigners and not to let them know how ordinary Russians lived. For three years I participated in the international races in Murmansk at the end of the season and then the Nordic tour in Sweden, Finland, Norway. We had to go to Murmansk by train from Moscow, Russian tourists were going there, we had two compartments as racers. I was happy about it, it was almost a three-day journey and we even slept on the train, I appreciated that we could talk to normal Russians. I enjoyed talking to them, they said to me when we were getting off in Murmansk, 'A ty nye russkaja?' [You are not Russian?]. They didn't want to believe me that we had learned Russian at school. Then we went by bus to Finland, across the border, and I could translate for Finnish and Swedish racers into Russian, I could speak German and Russian as well. We finished the season with a Nordic tour, we didn't come home until the end of April, beginning of May, all the mud had been over here and the flowers were already blooming. I liked the spring tours in the north, I had the best results there. There didn't use to be world championship, there were only international races. When I am going through my trophies, the diplomas, the medals, I am telling myself: Damn, I was pretty good at those races."

  • "They were willing to support me. I remember once we were on a training camp in the High Tatras. We were running along the rocky paths to Solisko, suddenly we were overtaking some tourists. Then we came back home to Jablonec and the then director of the OÚNZ [District Institute of National Health] called me in and said: 'I think I saw you in the Tatras, we were hardly breathing there, and you were competing.' He was surprised by what we had to do in training and was quite supportive."

  • "At first I thought it would be nice at the halls of residence, but then I found out because of sport trainings that it wasn't at all. I commuted all the time and it was a complication while doing sport. There was also canoeing in Liberec, but I didn't know anyone, and before I got used to it... There was a good team in Jablonec, I came back and decided it would be better to commute. We had good results at that time, considering that we were only going around on the dam. For example, we were supposed to go to the international youth races, but because the girls from Prague had dads in the canoe federation, they were favoured. The girls from Prague went instead of us, and that upset us. And especially coach Ciller was a coach of both canoeing and skiing, and in addition to canoeing we started to run and ski a lot, and suddenly, the sport in nature, in the woods and on the snow prevailed. Skiing won over canoeing, even though when I was a teenager I was quite good at canoeing, we got even among the top three in the country."

  • "Well as soon as the snow melted and before the dam froze, that´s what it depended on. There was a disadvantage that the [canoeists] from Prague could go down the Vltava much longer than we could. We made up for it on skis, with additional preparation. We worked out a lot in the gym, we did athletics, we ran with the athletes from other towns. In addition, I started to learn to ski when I was about seventeen, cross-country skiing. I was already fighting for a place in the national team at the age of twenty, I wasn't afraid of the training, the load, both are quite physically demanding. And most importantly, I didn't have my body exhausted from childhood like kids do now, when they start at a young age, they don´t enjoy it any more at 14. I didn't start discovering the sport until I grew wiser, and that made me enjoy it more. Well, then in my teens there was the motivation that there were boys around and we liked them. It made us train that much more, made us want to go to trainings much more."

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    Liberec, 19.04.2023

    duration: 01:54:34
    media recorded in project Tipsport for Legends
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Bronze skier trained so hard that she fell asleep standing up during the night shift

Alena Bartošová in the early 1970s in a picture by Jan Drhlík
Alena Bartošová in the early 1970s in a picture by Jan Drhlík
photo: Witness´s archive

Alena Bartošová, née Kocourová, was born on 17 September 1944 in Pipice near Železný Brod. When she was two years old, the family moved to Jablonec nad Nisou, where they bought one third of a villa left by an expulsed Sudeten German. Alena Bartošová began her sporting career at the end of primary school as a speed canoeist. She graduated from the Secondary Medical School in Liberec and started to work at the neonatal and children’s ward at the Jablonec hospital. At the age of seventeen, she switched from canoeing to cross-country skiing and at twenty fought for a place on the Czechoslovak national team. She had to combine sport with her work as a nurse. In 1970 she won fifth place for Czechoslovakia in the relay at the World Championships in the High Tatras. In 1972, she participated in the Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan, where she finished sixth in the relay and sixteenth in the five-kilometre race. In 1973, she won the national championship in the ten-kilometre race. She came third in the relay at the 1974 World Championships in Falun, Sweden. She also represented Czechoslovakia at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. She won the sixth place in the relay. She then retired from her career as a top athlete and worked in health care until her retirement. She and her husband, Jiří Bartoš, a cross-country ski coach, raised two sons. In 2023 she had two grandsons and one granddaughter and was living in Jablonec nad Nisou.