Written by: Monika Mudranincová
Photo: Andrea Horská
Champion shot putter and long-time captain of the Czechoslovak national team, Helena Fibingerová (54) has gone through an incredible change. She’s lost 35 kilograms and gained lots of experience in life, and now she’s competing in the fields of management, business, and culture.
“Track and field was my greatest love in life,” she says right up front. While we remember her as a shot putter in the seventies and eighties, she originally aspired to be a teacher, even acquiring the minimal credentials for the profession. She also worked as an accountant, but only until she fell completely under the spell of athletics. She sacrificed her time and appearance for her grand passion, but as she says, the applause of spectators was worth it. She holds nine indoor world records and 16 medals, eight of which are gold. Many people undoubtedly recall her triumphal victory at the world championships in Helsinki, where she brought home the gold with a shot distance of 21.05 meters. “That was great, but those days are gone forever,” the champion says without a hint of regret. She retired at the height of her career in 1988, but she’s still going at full speed.
She works 15 hours a day, dividing her time between a bakery in Uherský Ostroh that she and her husband own, Česká atletika s.r.o., for which she seeks funding from sponsors, and the Czech Television Council, where as a councilor she oversees the operations of the public broadcaster. While she appreciates the fact that her name opens many doors and helps to finance track and field, as a businesswoman she had to go through a trial by fire. Unlike in her sporting days, in business no one applauded her. Quite the contrary. At one point she found herself on the verge of failure. She fought back, and the result is that now the bakery has 16 employees and enjoys monthly sales of over a million crowns.
She considers her future optimistically, and she isn’t leaving anything to chance. On her 300 km journey between Prague and Uherský Ostroh, she studies English, plans further investments in the bakery, and sets up her many daily meetings with track and field sponsors and partners. She admits that she’d like to serve another term on the Czech Television Council, and says that she’s terrified by the idea of one day having nothing to do. “I simply can’t imagine retiring some day, I have to be constantly in motion.” she says with a smile.