History: Jozef Lenčeš recalls the Universiade silver: "Electrifying!"

June 20, 2023

Although he only started his active sports career as a high school student, he immediately began to convince people that he was a great athletic hope. As a teenager, he accentuated this by breaking one national record after another. Already in the adult category he added the third best European indoor performance of the season (1977) in the 1500 m. Jozef Lenčéš, a former Czechoslovakian representative, has also won the European Cup. The lifetime success of the Bratislava Inter offspring came at the World Universiade in Bucharest on the 5000 m track.

Even though it’s been decades, do you remember the thrilling finish in which the medals were decided by centimetres and tenths of a second? Doesn’t it, for example, remind you of Frank Zimmermann from NSR in your dreams, who was literally breathing down your back and trying to push you back to third place?

“Not really. But of course, sometimes I remember those races. After all, it was also an amazing experience. Great opponents, great atmosphere and 60,000 spectators in the stadium. Electrifying!”

How do you remember the Universiade silver? It was, by the way, one of only three medals that the Czechoslovakian team managed to win at the Games…

“The Universiade was a big and prestigious event. We must remember in this context that at that time there was no World Athletics Championships. So the most prestigious events within athletics were the Olympics and the Universiade. I appreciate the silver from Bucharest all the more.”

Even today, you still tell yourself that you made the most of it and that the American Doug Padilla could not be overtaken?

“But he did. I had it in me, but it’s all a question of the moment, the right timing. Definitely the second and whether one gets on exactly when one has to, to push forward, to have time in the finish to get around the one in front of you. I, as they say, “fell asleep” at that moment, and after that there was nothing to be done, Padilla had it guarded. However, there were runners behind me with much better times.”

Have you used sport, running in your other life, has perseverance and hard training helped you in your civilian non-sporting life as well?

“Definitely, sport helps everyone who is involved in it. And the advantage of endurance sports is that they teach a person to go to the bottom of his strength, not to give up and overcome crises. And that’s important not only in sports, but in life as a whole.”

Are you still running? In an interview as a young athlete, you confessed that you really like to run in spring, when everything is in bloom. Does it still draw you now?

“Of course, I still try to live an active life. And in this spring season, when nature is waking up, it’s wonderful to run in the woods, to breathe the fresh air, to notice all the beautiful smells of the flowering trees. It’s something wonderful, I still find it fascinating.”

And how do you perceive that many people keep fit by running?

“Very positive. I like it, and every time I meet or pass a runner or a cyclist, I say hello to them. I’m glad that people are doing sport, getting fit. As we said, it helps them to be more resilient, more hardy and actually better. Because I believe that if somebody is involved in sport, and they respect sport and its principles, they’re also a person of good character.”

Read the full interview at https://sport.aktuality.sk/c/494835/jozef-lences-spomina-na-univerziadne-striebro-elektrizujuce/