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Friday, February 21, 2014

Ladislav Nicek, A Czech Legend

The world's oldest race director was also the world's oldest competitive winter swimmer.

Dr. Ladislav Nicek, the oldest member of the Czech Swimming Federation and the TJ Lokomotiva Olomouc Winter Swimming Team who passed away in 2011 at the age of 97, also organized the Czech Winter Swimming Championships (Český pohár v zimním plavání) until his last years.

A strong advocate of a Spartan lifestyle centered around winter swimming, he kept chugging along throughout the year, year after year. Ladislav was the oldest swimmer who participated every week in winter swimming races from October until April. A sturdy and robust cold water enthusiast had no problem in waters below 5°C.

Ladislav is shown above as he was getting in the water for the traditional Christmas swim in the Vltava River in downtown Prague.

Czech winter swimmer Vladimir Komárek talks about the history of winter swimming in the Czech Republic here on Radio Prague. He explains, "Winter swimming was first seen in 1923 when the leading proponent of this Spartan lifestyle, the late Alfred Nikodém, and six other enthusiasts plunged into the freezing cold Vltava River watched by a crowd of stunned on-lookers. Nikodém was a showman who deeply believed in this healthy lifestyle and who did a great deal to gather an audience and draw media attention. He would undertake one of these winter swims dressed in a military uniform swimming with a machine gun in hand or else he would get into a potato bag and tie it around his waist swimming with his hands only in order to get attention. During the years of the First Republic there wasn’t as much to chose from as there is today in the way of entertainment – people didn’t have TV sets and only some had radios - so a spectacle of this kind always drew a crowd…read more here).

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