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  • Ninety-one-year-old Milada Chudlarska with some of her past and present students. (Supplied)
A passion for gymnastics that started at a very young age is still driving Milada Chudlarska 85 years later.
English
By
Sarka Pechova

17 May 2017 - 12:50 PM  UPDATED 19 May 2017 - 12:26 PM

Milada was only six-years-old when she first tried gymnastics - and has been doing it ever since.

The year was 1931, in pre-war Czechoslovakia, when her mother took her to a Sokol organisation gym.

Sokol is Czech for 'falcon' and the name of the all-ages, all skills sports organisation, founded on the principle of a strong mind and a sound body that made a life-long impact on a young Milada.

Incredibly 85 years after her first gymnastics lesson, you can still find the tiny lady in the gym, training young gymnasts.

Milada Chudlarska hasn´t been a competitive gymnast, but she loves the physical education and making it accessible for all children, regardless of their talent.

With her never-ending optimism and kind approach, for many of her students she's like their third grandmother.

"Attention please, everyone fold in a line”, a clear but gentle voice resonates through the gym in Pizen a city only a few kilometres away from where she first tried gymnastics.

Little children stop screaming and running around, and quietly line up to cheer before the training begins.

And it certainly isn´t the first training their teacher is about to lead.

"I have been teaching gymnastics for 70 years now," she explains.

She started with general gymnastics, and then in 1953 moved to train rhythmic gymnastics. She was one of the founders of the sport in the region of West Bohemia in the Czech Republic. Back then the sport was a complete novelty, now the popular sport boasts more than 90 registered clubs.

When the regional leaders of sports asked the already established coach of gymnastics to take part in establishing the new sport, Mrs Chudlarska didn't hesitate.

"It had always been by dream to connect movement with music," she smiles.

"And that came true in rhythmic gymnastics."

It's not good manners to ask a lady about her age, but with Ms Chudlarska you just can´t help it.

"I am 91," she smiles proudly. Well nobody would have guessed that!

She looks at least 20 years younger. And when quizzed on where she get all her energy from?

"I guess it is just a gift from nature," she replies modestly.

Three days a week she devotes to training gymnasts, any spare time is taken up by her garden which no doubt plays a big part in keeping her fit.

Gymnastics for everybody

"At the moment our team is non-competitive," she explains.

"If someone wants to compete and I see that they have the talent, I recommend them to other clubs in the city. In the past, we had kids going to the competitions, but I found out that if they were not winning, it was rather discouraging them from the sport."

However, the children learn "compulsory" routines.

"We have hoops, ribbons, rope, ball and clubs," she explains.

With the last one the clubs she also performed in 1975 at Spartakiada, a group gymnastic spectacle.

"We performed to Bedrich Smetana´s Moldau," remembers Missis Teacher with a smile.

She performed as a sun wearing a yellow leotard. On the bleached old photograph, she looks like one of the girls, even though she was already in her fifties at the time.

"I was always small," Chudlarska giggles.

During her time in the gym she has trained nearly two thousand girls from the West Bohemian region.

For many she has become their friend and confidante - where children, teenagers and adults can share their stories and problems.

Many of her "children" return to the gym, bringing their own children, to reconnect with their favourite trainer.

Some of her former students have been inspired to establish their own gymnastic clubs, while others have never left and are now coaches helping Missis Chudlarska.

One of them is Veronika, a former student and now a young mum and coach.

"I have started coming to this gym when I was eight or nine, and now my three-year-old comes with me as well.

"It is all recorded in a Club Diary book, that Missis Chudlarska has. She has been writing it since many decades."

"They now help me with the classes," says Chudlarska.

"I just oversee it. And when somebody is sick, I just jump in and cover them."

However, the other coaches including Veronika disagree: "She's so active, she jumps with the kids and does many of the exercises."

"Well, I have to be there, when we are learning the routines," concludes Missis Chudlarska.