Chalupa’s silver-studded career
At 10h30 on Sunday 30 August 2009, the
men’s coxed pairs were in the starting
blocks at the World Rowing
Championships in Poznan, Poland. A hush
fell over the 12 rowers and six coxswains.
How many of them knew that this would
be the last race in the 28-year rowing
career of the stroke-man sitting in lane
three? How many of them knew that this
man, Vaclav Chalupa, was racing at his
16th World Championships? Or did they
know that he had seen six Olympic Games
and accumulated about 60,000km on the
water during his career?
Zdenek Pecka took over in 1989 and remained
Chalupa’s coach for the next 15 years.
helped bring him back season after season. “I love
the sport, I always had support from friends
and family and I always hoped that
I would win the gold,” says Chalupa.
Vaclav Chalupa competing at
the 2004 Rowing World Cup in
In 1984 Chalupa made the national team for the
first time and a year later competed at the World
Rowing Junior Championships.
By the time Chalupa competed at the Barcelona
Olympic Games in 1992 at age 24, he had already
raced at one Olympic Regatta and had three World
Championship silver medals in the single. On the
Banyoles regatta course, Chalupa took Olympic
silver behind the great Thomas Lange (GDR).
Chalupa values this medal above all others in his
The closest Chalupa came to gold was
in 2001 at the Lucerne World Rowing
Championships. “I got bronze and
I was 0.7 of a second from gold
(behind Olaf Tufte and
Iztok Cop),” laments
At 10h37 Chalupa slumped over his oar. Head
down. He had rowed his last competitive stroke
and finished off his career in silver medal position
– a position he had seen far too many times.
Rowing continued to dominate Chalupa’s life
and in 1994 he bought a house with his wife and
newborn son Vaclav near Racice, where the Czech
national team training camps are based.
Vaclav Chalupa was born in Jindrichuv Hradec, a
small town in southern Czechoslovakia, 42 years
ago. His father, Vaclav Chalupa Sr., raced at the 1960
and 1964 Olympic Games. “I saw photographs of my
dad rowing,” says Chalupa, “although I never saw
him row. Then when I was 13 my dad re-established
the club in our town.” Chalupa’s rowing days had
begun, with his dad taking the role of coach before
Throughout Chalupa’s career he never missed a
World Rowing Championships and up until 2006
he made every final bar one (at the 2000 Olympics
he was ill and raced in the B-final).
In 2005, the now
beaten in the
single at the
Czech trials by
Synek held on
to the single >
© 2004 Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Chalupa says his drive to continue rowing never
waivered and missing that elusive gold medal
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