Jaroslava Jehličková

* 1942

  • “I guess it’s how people are. You always want to win something bigger. And in 1966 - until then I had always been second at the national championship - I was running the national championship. Now I can’t remember if it was in Třinec or in Ostrava, or where it was. But that time I won my first championship race, and I had finally placed first. Standing on the winners’ podium I thought a lot about my dad, who always pushed me and said: ‘Why weren’t you first, why weren’t you this, why didn’t you run better...?’ As if always hiding the joy within him. He was awfully strict both to himself and to us children. While I was stepping down from the winners’ podium and taking my medal off from around my neck, my trainer was already waiting for me to tell me that my dad wouldn’t know about my victory because he had died two hours before. That was such a blow, and immediately all the joy was gone. And if I think back on my whole racing career, it was marked by joy which was immediately followed by some bitter disappointment. In 1966 I was supposed to participate in the European Championship. I didn’t go, hip joint inflammation.”

  • “We passed the 800-metre mark and I said to myself, the split time is better than the world record, that isn’t possible. I started to solve the problem - I catch them up now, and the moment I do the finish will come up and I’ll be left in the lurch again. But if I don’t catch them up now, there’s no chance of catching them up anyway because they’ll already be ahead of me. So I made a decision, and I started upping for the finish already at around the 1,100-metre mark. When the bell rang for the last lap, about 400 metres before the finish line, someone ahead of me took a fall, one or two of the racers fell down. I circumvented them down the third lane. I caught up with all of them at the 300-metre mark before the finish line, at 150 metres to go I was already third place. Suddenly for the first time I realised I could fight for a European Championship medal. At such a moment you feel as if you’ve grown wings. I looked ahead of me and said to myself: Jesus, I’m third, but the first and second ones aren’t so far away, I have to give it a shot. I gave it a shot and suddenly I felt I had overtaken them so very easily. And when I’d overtaken the first one as well, I had a sudden sensation of such relief and such happiness that I felt I wasn’t even running, I felt amazingly light and not at all tired, simply wonderful.”

  • “My mum comes from Jablonec. We used to go there as children to visit Granddad and Grandma. They had a house there. Granddad had a bakery, he had horses, carts, sledges. I remember that when we visited Granddad and Grandma as children, Granddad harnessed up the horses, jingle bells and all, and off we trotted through Jablonec. They left us the house, but sometime around ’68 they started building a housing estate there and they knocked our house down, and we were given a flat instead. A two-bed flat for that whole house in Jablonec. The curious thing is that we were allocated the flat around Christmas. When we were supposed to move from that old house to the housing estate, which was a distance of about 800 metres, we moved our things on a sledge. And before we came back from the first load to take the second, someone had burgled our house. They stole almost all of my keepsakes, or the various souvenirs that I had brought home from those international races. Say, I came home from the European Championship with a world record, and I got three carnations at the airport. There was no monetary reward for us. It’s completely different nowadays. I remember that we had visited one Indian quarter in Mexico. And so I was looking forward to having my own flat, where I would put all of these things into a small display. But I didn’t even have to get myself a big display because they stole all that from us, including the medals. Luckily, my gold medal from Athens had been lent to an exhibition at the time, so I still have that.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 14.03.2014

    duration: 01:38:29
    media recorded in project Sports Stories of the 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 21.02.2019

    duration: 28:39
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

“That world, in which you cannot reach the top without enhancing substances, was not for me anymore.”

Jaroslava Jehličková, 2014
Jaroslava Jehličková, 2014
photo: Eye Direct

Jaroslava Jehličková was born on the 24th of March 1942 in Hořice in Podkrkonoší into the family of a Sokol member and confectioner. After the 1948 February coup her father lost his confectionery, in 1953 he was arrested and spent six years in prison. The witness was left with just her mother and two sisters. To survive the difficult times, they created a strong bond between them and helped each other. From 1959 Jaroslava Jehličková devoted herself to medium-distance athletics. She placed second at the national championships several times. In 1966, she finally won the 1,500-metre race, but, unfortunately, that same day her father died of appendicitis. In August 1968, she was with the national athletics team at a training session in Romania, and then she flew to the Olympics in Mexico. She fell ill with a fever before the semifinals and dropped out. In 1969 during profiling in her day job she stated her disapproval of the Warsaw Pact invasion, but without any personal consequences. That same year she achieved her greatest success when she made a new world record at the 1,500-metre race at the European Championship in Athens. However, she spent the following year recovering from a botched leg operation. She returned to the racetrack in 1971 and attended the European Championship in Helsinki. She was given an anesthetic injection because of her leg pain, but the substance entered her blood and she started hallucinating during the race. At the Olympics in Munich in 1972, she ruptured a muscle tendon before the semifinals. Thus, her dream to run in Olympic finals was thwarted. In the early 1970s, drugs began to play an ever-increasing role in sports. This was one of the reasons why Jaroslava Jehličková decided to end her career in 1972. She took place in the demonstrations in 1989, she is a pensioner since 2000, but she still works part-time at the box office of the Jewish Museum in Prague.