His father was a Slovak from Martin, his mother a native of Prague, his wife comes from Brno. He was born in Prague, but spent his student years in Bratislava, where he graduated and graduated from FTVŠ UK.
photo: ARCHIVE OF PAUL HAPPY
Pavel Šťastný still feels good on the slope with skis on his feet.
Pavel Šťastný (75) still considers himself a Czechoslovak, although he has lived in the USA for thirty years. The legendary ski coach still likes to return to Prague and Bratislava, especially in the summer. It will soon be half a century since he entered the great world of downhill skiing.
You are constantly traveling, spending time in several countries in different parts of the world throughout the year. Where do you feel most at home?
It’s a difficult question. I am now in Bratislava and I am at home here. Here I studied, started working as an assistant professor at the Department of Physical Education, Faculty of Arts, Charles University, I started my coaching work. There are beautiful memories associated with all this, I have a big piece of my heart here.
But probably not only here…
I also have it in Prague, where I was born. And if we take it strictly administratively, I have a permanent residence in Killington, where I work as a coach at the ski academy. I spend a lot of time at camps around the world, mostly in Austria and Switzerland. I feel a little out of sight, I don’t want it to sound too pathetic, but I feel like a citizen of this planet.
You used to be an urban child. How did you build such a close relationship with alpine skiing?
Father Martinčan was a well-known and successful doctor, in his hometown there were good conditions for skiing on Martinské holy. He also worked in Levoča, where he taught me to ski. But as a boy, I was attracted to hockey. I enjoyed it more. It wasn’t until we came to Bratislava that I confirmed that I wanted to go skiing.
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A little curious – I suffer from Austrian television, which could be watched here. At that time, the World Cup was not yet running, but the FIS race. The Austrians paid close attention to them, broadcast all the events and I watched them closely.
That motivated me, I skied on Kamzík, I spent a lot of time there. And whenever there was a chance, I took the train to Jasná. When I got to the Faculty of Physical Education and Sports at Charles University, he hesitated for a while what specialization to choose. The game included hockey and downhill skiing. In the end, skiing won.
By the way, did you enjoy skiing on Kamzík?
Bratislava residents know that there is a so-called donkey meadow on Kamzík, but there is also a steeper slope. The cable car did not exist, we always had to tread it on our own. It was not a big slope, but the advantage was that Kamzík is only a short walk from the city center. I was on a hill in a few minutes.
At that time, races were held there regularly. I was grateful that I could ski directly in Bratislava. It’s a pity that Kamzík still doesn’t live on skiing anymore, they don’t create better conditions for her there.
You experienced the golden coaching period in the seventies and eighties. You built a national team and gradually raised it to the world level. How do you remember these years?
These were pioneering times and the beginnings were not easy. The Communist Party used to consider downhill skiing a bourgeois sport, and we did not have much support. Classic skiing, jumping and running had a different position, which was the direction of Soviet sport, and the Eastern Bloc was very strong and successful in this area.
Classical disciplines were preferred. However, I was young and wanted to work. And I must say that my predecessors have already done a lot of work, Czech men such as Miloslav Sochor and Bohumír Zeman were able to push themselves on the podium, especially in the European Cup, similarly to women Dáša Kuzmanová, which was also visible in the world.
However, the biggest successes only came…
Already as a college student, I decided that I wanted to be a successful ski coach. I was lucky because when I started. appeared on the scene of a young skier – Jana Šoltýsová, later Gantnerová and Olga Charvátová.
Great girls, absolutely professionals who decided that they wanted to be the best racers, the best in the world and were willing to undergo the premise. I have to say that he was really extremely tough.
Pavel Šťastný Historical shot. Pavel Šťastný after the victory of Jana Šoltýsová (next to him) in the congress in Altenmarkt, on the far left is Olga Charvátová.
Olina’s Olympic medal and the results created by Jan in the World Cup in the downhill were the first significant results of the downhill skis from the communist bloc.
Did these results help you? Have conditions improved?
Yes, we could limit the world, but we had a number of days for which we have exit clauses. When the girls reached the top of the world, they created better conditions for us.
For example, at training camps in Nymburk Prague, where there was a physical education training center, we spent a lot of time in preparation, I was already helped by an assistant, doctor, masseur… And gradually we could take a doctor on trips abroad…