I sent the following text to the FISA as a nomination proposal on 9 March 2010, the closing date for submissions. Chalupa's nomination as a finalist for this year's Thomas Keller Medal was finally published on the FISA web on 3 June and included quotes from my proposal as well as from someone else's submission. It was good to see that more people took the initiative to support Chalupa. Please, read further if you want to remember the highlights of this Czech man's life with rowing.
Main dates of the career:
1989-1993, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2007, 2009
Czech rower Vaclav Chalupa in 2009, the last year of his performance career. Source: YouTube screen grab.
1. Success at the international level, e.g. medal count taking level of competition into account:
Vaclav Chalupa Jr. (whose father, Vaclav Chalupa Sr., finished fifth in coxed pair in the 1964 Olympics) officially announced retirement from rowing after last year's world championships in Poznan, Poland. A Czech daily has characterised Chalupa's rowing career as going “from silver to silver” in a reference to the medals he took in his first (1989) and last (2009) senior world championships. During that time, Chalupa collected one Olympic silver (1992), five silver and three bronze medals from world championships (silver: 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 2009; bronze: 1995, 1998, 2001), and one gold from European championships (2007), in addition to four fourth places at world championships (1999, 2002, 2003, 2005). He has competed at six Olympic Games, from Seoul 1988 to Beijing 2008.
2. “Type” of career e.g. overcoming obstacles, shortcomings:
The main challenge long faced by Chalupa was his being “always second” among the world's single scullers. In 1995 and 1998, only “catching a crab” in the world championship finals seems to have cost him the gold. He underwent a crisis after repeatedly ranking just below the medals in top international events, at first in single (2002-2004) and then in quad (2005-2006). An obstacle of its kind was Chalupa's long remoteness on the home water: until the advent of Ondrej Synek (who started to beat Chalupa in 2004 and 2005), individual Czech rowers were far behind the level of Chalupa's performance. Still, at his age of 40 (in 2007), Chalupa finished second in the Czech erg championships. His passion for rowing made him move to Racice where the Czech prime rowing venue is situated; but, he and his wife have suggested in the media that they had had quite a hard time to get used to the local flat industrial landscape that is so different from their native southern Bohemia.
3. Technical mastery of the sport e.g. success in different boat types as well as sculling and sweep rowing:
Chalupa started his international career in wooden shells (nostalgically calling them in a Czech television interview “boats... for connoisseurs”) and with macon scull blades. He has competed at international events in single (1990-2005), double (1985, 2007), quad (1988, 2005-2006), coxless pair (2008-2009), coxed pair (2009), and eight (2007).
4. Sportsmanship e.g. respect for others, attitude, character, “smiling win or lose”:
Chalupa has been known among fellow-rowers and the Czech sports public as a model of modesty and selflessness. When asked in a television interview whether he would become a coach, he replied: “Being a coach is a mission. Coach must be tough, which I am not. When something is difficult and painful, I prefer doing it myself rather than torturing someone else.” The Czech media have suggested that Chalupa actually felt guilty when the Czech quad reinforced by him had stayed behind the medal positions in world championships (2005-2006). In a television report, Chalupa summarised his rowing career as a “fairy-tale with a fantastic ending”.
5. “Legendary” aspect e.g. how the rower is perceived by the rowing world and the world outside rowing:
Chalupa was the Czech flag-bearer at the opening ceremony of the 1996 Olympics. For over a decade, his name was the synonym for rowing in the Czech sports public as he was the only internationally visible Czech representative of the sport. He has repeatedly ranked high in the nationwide best athlete surveys (in 2009, the coxed pair stroked by Chalupa ranked second among the teams in the 2009 Czech Athlete of the Year survey). He has set up an own rowing sprint regatta called Chalupa Cup, one of its aims being promotion of the sport. Chalupa's rowing career is unique by its duration, continuous level of performance, versatility, and unceasing enthusiasm.
Online sources used in the nomination: