The Slovenia Times

Still active, gymnastics great Cerar celebrating 80th birthday


Although Cerar recently turned 80, the Slovenian Olympic Committee (OKS) has decided to entrust him with the task as an expression of recognition to the former Olympic, world and European champion in artistic gymnastics.

He will be leading the Slovenian Olympic team next year in Tokyo, where he won the gold medal on the pommel horse in the 1964 Olympics, following it up with the gold medal in the same discipline at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Cerar also won the bronze medal on the horizontal bar in Tokyo, as well as four golds at world championships and nine golds at European championships.

He is one of the greatest Slovenian and Yugoslav gymnasts of all time along Leon Štukelj (1898-1999), and was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in 1999.

Cerar, a great fighter for fair play, has received the Silver Olympic Order, the highest award of the International Olympic Committee, in 1984, and the national Golden Order of Merit for his contribution to sport in 2009.

It was hard for the STA to catch him for an interview, as he is still very active and is travelling a lot.

Cerar describes his successes as a piece in the Slovenian sport mosaic, while speaking about Slovenian athletic achievements in superlatives, and believing that they are the most effective promotion of the country possible.

He gladly remembers the gold medal in Tokyo, with the 55th anniversary of the feat approaching, telling the STA that "it is not just about me, this is how you also revive the memory of gymnastics, of some of my colleagues."

Cerar believes that Slovenians are excellent athletes and still watches sport regularly, not only gymnastics. "I love to watch sport competitions, I like to know the results, but I'm not a fan who would scream, jump and wave the flag."

He is still very busy as a volunteer for the OKS, where he is in charge of the Olympic Academy, attending a lot of sessions and meetings abroad. "I don't get bored, I really don't," he said.

Cerar has been busy lately looking for the material for the exhibition on his sport achievements and life, which opened mid-October at the Ljubljana City Hall. "The author Ivan Čuk has set it up very well. He made a snapshot of my performances and it is very nice to see it."

While he admitted that he is not really of fan of such celebrations, the exhibition has filled him with sentiment and memories. "I hadn't expected that. When everything is displayed and explained so beautifully, you get a different impression."

The exhibition, called Eight Decades of Miroslav Cerar, displays items, national decorations, medals, trophies and other memorabilia. The most important events are shown with video clips, photographs and text.

While he has visited the Japanese capital several times, he was last time there three years ago upon an invitation from the current president of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), Morinari Watanabe of Japan.

"I was received at the time by an advisor to the Japanese government and he presented me with a CD with a recording of my final exercise on the pommel horse [in 1964]," said Cerar, who will travel to Tokyo again this November.

"I can't wait. I would like to see the Slovenian House and I hope that I will also be able to visit the Slovenian Embassy in Tokyo," said the ambassador of the Slovenian House.

The house will serve as a meeting point for athletes, journalists and fans, while Cerar will also head the Slovenian Olympic delegation during the Olympics, which will take place between 24 July and 9 August.

"I'm looking forward to it, of course. But I'm nevertheless worried a bit about my physical condition. I'm not able to jump around as I used to, but fortunately, my colleagues from the OKS will take care of me and assume a part of the responsibilities."

Cerar believes that it will not be easy for Slovenian Olympians in Tokyo. "Difficult conditions are awaiting us, with heat and high humidity, it will not be easy. But I'm convinced that organisation will be at the top level."

The former Olympic champion likes to say here and there that gymnastics is the basis for all sports. "I like all sports, but the fact is that gymnastics is without a doubt the foundation for all sports, as well as for life."

Cerar still gets together with friends from gymnastics once a week, but they no longer play football. Instead they visit a restaurant to talk about all things possible. "We also organise picnics twice a year with friends, spouses and children."

He and his friends from the sport have stayed closely connected. "We have fun all the time, we debate all sorts of things, make jokes. A bit younger boys, who are around 70 today, have joined us," he said jokingly.


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