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Slovak fitness queens impress at international competetions

For Zora Czoborová, it all began with a motorcycle crash. A former sprinter who specialised in the 400 metres race, Czoborová's life was turned upside down following a nasty spill off her motorcycle which required extensive surgery and effectively ended her running career.
Born to be an athlete, she turned from running to aerobics in the only way she knew - with dedicated gusto. Although she had been blessed from birth with a naturally beautiful face and physique, Czoborová's aerobic training took her to levels she had never before dreamed of. One year after becoming serious about her training, she became the amateur world champion in fitness


Marieta Žigalová (left), Iveta Chrťanová (centre) and Jana Purdjaková.
photo: TASR

For Zora Czoborová, it all began with a motorcycle crash. A former sprinter who specialised in the 400 metres race, Czoborová's life was turned upside down following a nasty spill off her motorcycle which required extensive surgery and effectively ended her running career.

Born to be an athlete, she turned from running to aerobics in the only way she knew - with dedicated gusto. Although she had been blessed from birth with a naturally beautiful face and physique, Czoborová's aerobic training took her to levels she had never before dreamed of. One year after becoming serious about her training, she became the amateur world champion in fitness

Czoborová's success at international fitness meets inspired other Slovak women to try to emulate her, and triggered a remarkable run of top finishes by competitors hailing from this small central European country. But her role as a fitness role-model was by no means orthodox.

In university, Czoborová was a fun-loving girl fond of late-night parties - similar to characters often found in American university party films. In order to reach her current status as a world renowned fitness queen, however, she quit that lifestyle, settled down with Slovak hockey player Žigmund Pálffy of the Los Angeles Kings, and dedicated herself to her new passion.

Others took note and followed her lead. Now, results from other women are being seen with increased frequency. In this year's amateur fitness World Championships in Sydney, Australia, for example, two Slovak women took the gold and silver medals. Klaudia Kinská, a former member of Slovakia's national gymnastic team, finished first in the 160 cm and over height category, while Alena Balážová was the runner-up. Meanwhile, in the under 160 cm grouping, Iveta Chrťanová secured another gold for Slovakia.

"The judges said that Kinská must be from another world," said Drahomír Krásnohorský, the proud Slovak fitness team head coach. "Nobody expected that Slovakia would win [the gold and silver] like we did two years ago at the World Champs in Bratislava. It seems that the girls understand what fitness is all about and they know exactly what to do to prepare their bodies."

The most recent test for Slovak fitness buffs came in October, 1999 at the prestigious Las Vegas Olympia international fitness competition. Again, Slovak women proved worthy competitors as Timea Majorová and Marieta Žigalová finished 5th and 10th overall respectively. Majorová's 5th place finish was the highest by a non-American in the competition.

Slovakia might have made a bigger splash in the competition, but Kinská was denied the right to compete because the American Embassy refused her request for a visa. She put a positive spin on the setback, however, saying "it's sad, but I was very tired and probably my performance in Las Vegas would not have been excellent. I would love to prepare for the Arnold Classic competition in March, 2000."

Fitness is a combination of body building, gymnastics, aerobics, and even ballet. Typical training for fitness competitions involves strenuous weight-lifting and rigorous training in gymnastics. Body symmetry is very important in the eyes of judges, and fitness queens are not as muscle-bound as professional female body-builders.

During competitions, the women are required to perform countless somersaults, twists and other athletic exercises. Competitors strut their stuff in costume during the choreographed performance of the show, a crowd favourite because each woman has a different approach and a different story to tell through their dance.

The women are also judged in the "dress competition" and the "swimsuit competition." No points for artistic impression are awarded, but the dress event is meant to display a woman's grace and poise, while the swim suit section involves a more frank comparison of the women's figures by the judges.

So far, judges agree that Slovakia is a major international player in the fitness world. And considering Majorová, with her fantastically-muscled arms, Marieta Žigalová with her outstanding body symmetry (in spite of having given birth to two children), and Klaudia Kinská, the 'girl from outer space,' Slovakia should be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

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