Vrzáňová in 2009
|Full name||Alena Vrzáňová|
|Alternative names||Ája Zanová|
16 May 1931|
|Died||30 July 2015
Manhattan, New York City, United States
|Former coach||Arnold Gerschwiler|
|Skating club||VŠ Praha|
Alena "Ája" Vrzáňová (Czech pronunciation: [ˈalɛna ˈaːja ˈvr̩zaːɲovaː], also Zanová, married name: Steindler; 16 May 1931 – 30 July 2015), was a Czech figure skater who represented Czechoslovakia in competition. Vrzáňová is the 1949 & 1950 World champion and 1950 European champion.
After spending the winter of 1949 at home in Czechoslovakia, her father advised her not to come back from the upcoming World Championships and she agreed. She defected from Czechoslovakia during the 1950 World Championships in London and was eventually offered political asylum. Her mother followed her in March under dramatic circumstances – her plane was hijacked. Her father, a professional cello player, visited them several times, but decided not to leave his country permanently. He was held as a political prisoner for 13 years and forced to work in a coal mine. His daughter did not return to Prague until 1990, after the Velvet Revolution.
In 1969, Vrzáňová married Czech-born innkeeper Pavel Steindler; they adopted two children. They ran the Duck Joint restaurant in New York City, and later the Czech Pavilion. She died on 30 July 2015 at the age of 84 while living in New York City, in exile.
Vrzáňová started sports at the age of three when her parents bought her skis. They spent each winter in the Krkonoše mountains. This tradition was interrupted during the Second World War, and then Vrzáňová started figure skating. The conditions for training were difficult, as she had to train in early winter mornings. Her training sessions were held in darkness because of the dim-out regulations. The sessions took place in the open Štvanice Stadium before the sessions for hockey players, or in the CLTK club tennis courts, which were flooded with water and frozen.
In 1947, Vrzáňová won the Czechoslovak national championships and placed 7th at the 1947 World Figure Skating Championships.
In 1949, Vrzáňová was awarded the Silver Medal at the European Championships in Milan and won her first World Championships title in Paris. She seized her chance to win the gold medal as the Olympic runner-up and reigning European Champion Eva Pawlik of Austria had dropped out because of a broken boot heel just before the free program. At the championship, she was credited as being the first woman to land a double lutz.
Following her competitive career, Vrzáňová moved to the United States and performed for the traveling show Ice Follies for three years under the name "Aja Zanova" then joined the Ice Capades. She also participated in television ads and other shows.
She was inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2009.
In 2009, Vrzáňová received the title of the Sports Legend of the Czech Republic. In 2012, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg presented to her the 16th annual Gratias Agit Awards in recognition of those who promote the good name of the Czech Republic abroad.
|Winter Olympic Games||5th|
|Czechoslovak Championships||1st J.||1st||1st||1st||1st|
- Willoughby, Ian (2012-07-05). "Ája Vrzáňová-Steindler: Former ice skating world champion recalls 1950s defection – and much more". Radio Prague. Archived from the original on 2012-07-05.
- Heller Anderson, Susan (April 4, 1990). "Chronicle". The New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2011.
- Fox, M., "Aja Zanova, Top Czech Skater Who Defected to West, Dies at 84", New York Times, Aug. 1, 2015.
- Zemřela krasobruslařská legenda Ája Vrzáňová (Czech)
- Figure skating: "Favored to win, Eva Pawlik was forced to withdraw", in: Life Magazine, 14.3.1949
- Susan D. Russell, "Eva Pawlik and Rudi Seeliger", In: International Figure Skating Magazine, Jan/Feb 2008
- Matthias Hampe, The genesis of figure skating. Doctoral thesis at the Potsdam University 2010, page 218
- Elliott, Helene (March 13, 2009). "Brian Orser heads list of World Figure Skating Hall of Fame inductees". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 8, 2011.
- Richter, Jan (2012-06-01). "Foreign Ministry honours 12 people for promoting good name of Czech Republic". Radio Prague. Archived from the original on 2012-07-05.
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