How Love made an Athlete unable to compete at the Olympics | Strangest Moments

How Love made an Athlete unable to compete at the Olympics | Strangest Moments


The Olympic Games
truly has everything – high-octane action, incredible bravery, occasional comedy… and love. This is the story of
Olga Fikotova and Hal Connolly. The year was 1956, and the Olympic Games
had arrived in Melbourne. The Cold War between the Soviet
Bloc countries and the West was gathering pace, and it was against this
chilly political backdrop that an unlikely love would
blossom. Olga Fikotova was
a trainee doctor from Prague, in what was then
the Czech Socialist Republic, an ally of the USSR and firmly behind
the Iron Curtain. During her studies,
she had taken up athletics and quickly developed a love
for throwing the discus. Her coaches quickly spotted that she had talent
and strength and all that was missing
was that all-important rhythm. The solution to this rhythm
issue was simple – practise to the beautiful tones
of the Blue Danube. Olga’s trick worked, and in 1955
she was showing such promise that Russian discus legend
Nina Romaschkova, the reigning Olympic champion
and Olympic record holder, decided she would join
her coaching team to take her to the next level. It was a decision
she would come to regret. Both women qualified
for the Games, and when it came to
the business end of the discus competition, it was a case of
master versus the apprentice. Romaschkova demonstrated
the strength and skill that had won her gold
in Helsinki, breaking her own record
with a 52-metre throw. It’s a beauty. Over 170 feet.
It’s a new Olympic record. Olga’s first four throws were
good but not good enough and, as she took to the circle
for the fifth and final time, she was in second place. She had, however, been paying
attention to the master. Olga Fikotova, hazel-eyed
student from Czechoslovakia, spins the discus
176 feet 1½ inches, smashes the minutes-old record
of Nina and becomes the first athletic
gold medallist at Melbourne. Gold for Olga.
It was a fairy tale. But what sort of fairy tale
doesn’t have a Prince Charming? Olga was about to meet hers. Connolly was every inch
the American poster boy. He’d overcome disability to
become the best hammer thrower in the world, all while being
a humble history teacher in the Californian
public school system. His achievements came despite
the notable disadvantage of his left arm being four inches
shorter than his right, due to problems
suffered during birth, making it
all the more impressive. Heading into his final throw,
Connolly had work to do but, just like
his star-crossed lover, he was saving his best until
last. Connolly of America winds up. His legs thrust,
his body straightens, his arms whip up and the
16lb hammer whistles away for 207 feet 3½ inches. Yet another Olympic record. Yet another American on
the victors’ dais. But that’s enough
about hammers. Let’s get back to the love. The pair explored Melbourne
together and, despite only being able to
talk in broken English and German,
they quickly fell in love. Olympic Games are short-lived
affairs, and it seemed that theirs would be too. The Games were over
and it was time to return home. But this was the real deal. They soon made plans to marry. For Olga, this wasn’t
straightforward. Her government opposed
the marriage and they even suggested she wouldn’t be allowed to
represent her country again. Much to the delight
of just about everyone, the wedding went ahead and the pair set up home
back in America. Sadly, it turned out the Czech
government wasn’t bluffing. They followed through
with their threat. Olga would never represent
her home country again. There was, however,
the traditional happy ending. The Americans loved Olga and welcomed her as
one of their own. She went on to represent the
USA in the next four Games and in 1972, she was elected by her
team-mates to carry the flag at the opening ceremony,
the highest honour there is. It was the perfect ending
to the perfect love story, all courtesy of the Olympic
Games.

34 Replies to “How Love made an Athlete unable to compete at the Olympics | Strangest Moments”

  1. I am honestly very surprised that a country behind the Iron Curtain would use a non-Slavic piece of music from Germany to benefit them

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