Having read with interest Maofan7's great retrospective of the 1972 Olympics - hard to do considering the lack of material - I was struck by some perceptions which can often miss the mark a little, especially when there is such a lack of video evidence. Trixie Schuba's Olympic freeskate is a case in point.
However it also got me to thinking that very little is really known of Ondrej Nepela despite being the 1972 Olympic champion who was also a five time European and three time World champion. Considering these incredible accomplishments, it is for something else entirely that he is remembered, namely the infamous tryst with Toller Cranston at the 1973 World Championships. Of course this is only Toller's version of the story - easy to do when the other person is dead and can't give their side of the story. I love Toller but have always had issues with him revealing this when the other person can't answer back. Toller also condemned him to the 'generic soviet satellite skater' descriptive. OK so he didn't have the artistic genius of Toller or John Curry but he wasn't exactly shabby when it came to free skating.
To prove a point and to hopefully change opinions on his skating, I made a montage of his career which include a lot of rarely seen footage. To me he was a skater of quality - a master of figures who skated on good edges, with speed and flow, together with great spins (not many men today could match those camel positions), high consistent jumps, and an awareness of how to present himself with line and stretch. Yes the jump technique looks clunky to our eyes but you have to remember that he skated at the highest level from 1964 to 1973 when modern jump technique was in its infancy. His packaging is dated, but as a communist skater he literally had no choice but to skate the way he did. Luckily he was allowed an artistic outlet within his professional career with HOI as seen here.
Waltzes of Faust
Thankfully his home country remembers him with love and pride. In 2000 he was voted the athlete of the century and his memory lives on in the annual memorial competition that bears his name, as well as the Ondrej Nepela stadium in Bratislava where he won his third and last world title before an adoring home crowd.
So here's my tribute to Ondrej, a great skater who IMO deserves a better reputation.
Ondrej Nepela - The Lost Champion
Please share your memories of his skating if you remember him, or thoughts if he is new to you