Ondrej Nepela

Ondrej Nepela (22 January 1951 – 2 February 1989) was a Slovak figure skater who represented Czechoslovakia. He was the 1972 Olympic champion, a three-time World champion (1971–73), and a five-time European champion (1969–73). Later in his career, he performed professionally and became a coach.

Ondrej Nepela
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-L1129-0018, Ondrej Nepela.jpg
Nepela in 1972
Personal information
Country represented Czechoslovakia
Born(1951-01-22)22 January 1951
Bratislava, Czechoslovakia
(now Slovakia)
Died2 February 1989(1989-02-02) (aged 38)
Mannheim, West Germany
Former coachHilda Múdra
Skating clubSlovan Bratislava
Began skating1958

Early lifeEdit

Nepela was born on 22 January 1951 in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia.[1] His mother, a housewife and seamstress, and father, a chauffeur, were from central Slovakia.[2]


Nepela became interested in skating after watching the 1958 European Championships on television[3][4]Karol Divín won the men's title for Czechoslovakia. In February 1958, his mother brought the seven-year-old to a Bratislava ice rink.[4][5] After two weeks, she approached Hilda Múdra to complain that her son was being ignored by the instructors and Múdra agreed to teach him.[2][6] She described him as a diligent and punctual student.[5][6] Nepela trained at the Slovan Bratislava club.[7]

Competitive careerEdit

At age 13, Nepela was assigned to his first major international event — the 1964 Winter Olympics. After placing 22nd in Innsbruck, Austria, he debuted at the World Championships and finished 17th.

In the 1965–66 season, Nepela stepped onto his first ISU Championship podium, winning the bronze medal at the 1966 European Championships in Bratislava. He then reached the top ten at the 1966 World Championships in Davos, Switzerland. Over the next two seasons, Nepela won two more European bronze medals and placed eighth at his second Olympics, in Grenoble, France.

In the 1968–69 season, he won gold at the 1969 European Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, West Germany, and stood on his first World podium as the silver medalist at the 1969 World Championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The following year, he defended his European title at the 1970 European Championships in Leningrad, Soviet Union, before winning another silver medal at the 1970 World Championships, held in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia.

In 1971, Nepela won his third European title in Zurich, Switzerland and then captured his first World title at the 1971 World Championships in Lyon, France. After becoming the European champion for the fourth consecutive year in Gothenburg (Sweden), Nepela traveled to Sapporo, Japan to compete at his third Olympics. Placing first in the compulsory figures and fourth in the free skate, he finished first overall ahead of the Soviet Union's Sergei Chetverukhin and won the gold medal at the 1972 Winter Olympics, became one of the youngest male figure skating Olympic champions.

Nepela wanted to retire from competition after the 1971–72 season, but agreed to continue one more year because the 1973 World Championships were to be held in Bratislava. After winning his third World title in his hometown, he ended his amateur career.[8] Múdra was his coach throughout his career.[4]

Professional career, coaching, and awardsEdit

From 1973 to 1986, Nepela toured as a soloist with Holiday on Ice.[6] He then established himself as a coach in Germany, coaching Claudia Leistner to her European title in 1989.[4]

In 1972, Nepela was awarded the title of Merited Master of Sport of the USSR.[9] Since 1993, the Slovak Figure Skating Association has held a competition each autumn called the Ondrej Nepela Memorial. In December 2000, the Slovak Republic named him Slovak athlete of the 20th century.[10] Múdra accepted the award on his behalf.[11]

Later years and personal lifeEdit

In 1988, Nepela began to develop health problems and had two teeth removed.[5][8] He died in Mannheim in February 1989, at the age of 38.[4][7] The medical report from Mannheim hospital named cancer of the lymph nodes as the cause of death.[6] He also suffered from AIDS.[12]


Event 63–64 64–65 65–66 66–67 67–68 68–69 69–70 70–71 71–72 72–73
Winter Olympics 22nd 8th 1st
World Championships 17th 16th 8th 6th 6th 2nd 2nd 1st 1st 1st
European Champ. 8th 3rd 3rd 3rd 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st
Prize of Moscow News 1st
Prague Skate 1st 2nd 1st 1st
Czechoslovak Champ. 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st


  1. ^ "Register olympionikov zo Slovenska" [List of Olympians from Slovakia] (PDF) (in Slovak). Slovak Olympic Committee. p. 28. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 July 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b Szőcsová, Andrea (21 January 2011). "Naša najväčšia hviezda žiarila na ľade" [Our biggest ice star]. HN Online (in Slovak).
  3. ^ "Otázky a odpovede: Na otázky odpovedala Hilda Múdra" [Questions and answers with Hilda Múdra] (in Slovak). Pravda (Slovakia). 19 March 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Legendárny Ondrej Nepela by mal 60 rokov" [Legendary Ondrej Nepela would be 60 years old]. TASR (in Slovak). topky.sk. 22 January 2011.
  5. ^ a b c Šimo, Marián. "Hilda Múdra: Celý život je len zmes náhod" [Hilda Múdra: Whole life is just a combination of coincidences] (in Slovak). Slováci vo svete. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007.
  6. ^ a b c d Fukatsch, Peter (25 January 2009). "Krasokorčuliar Nepela bol jednotkár po každej stránke" [Figure skater Nepela was unique in every way]. sme.sk (in Slovak).
  7. ^ a b c "Ondrej Nepela" (in Slovak). osobnosti.sk. Archived from the original on 25 April 2013.
  8. ^ a b c Hlohoš, Jakub (21 January 2010). "Ondrej Nepela". slovenskyportal.sk (in Slovak). Archived from the original on 12 March 2014.
  9. ^ Panorama of the 1972 Sports Year (in Russian). Moscow: Fizkultura i sport. 1973. pp. 122–124.
  10. ^ Historical Dictionary of Slovakia (2014 ed.). Scarecrow Press. 14 November 2013. p. 488. ISBN 9780810880306.
  11. ^ "Hilda Múdra" (in Slovak). osobnosti.sk. Archived from the original on 29 May 2008.
  12. ^ Randy Harvey (21 November 1992). "When AIDS Is Confronted : Figure skating: Deaths and illnesses of former stars bring community together". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 March 2023.

External linksEdit