Olga Fikotova Connolly, Olympic Gold Medalist passed away at 91

Olga Connolly, Olympic Gold Medalist passed away on April 12, 2024.

By Mark Connolly, Merja Connolly, Jim Connolly, Nina Connolly

Olga Fikotova Connolly, November 13, 1932-April 12, 2024
April 12, 2024, marked the passing of the last living Olympic Champion from the
Melbourne 1956 Olympics. Olga Fikotova Connolly passed away at 91 years old. Olga is
most known for her athletic accomplishments as a five time Olympian and Gold Medalist in
the Women’s discus throw. She competed in Melbourne in 1956 winning the competition
for her homeland Czechoslovakia and then competing in four more Olympic Games for the
United States as an American citizen. In the 1972 Munich Olympics her USA teammates
honored her with the nomination to carry the delegation flag, which she stated was one of
her most proud moments. Olga is likely the only Olympian ever to win a Gold Medal for one
country and subsequently carry the flag in an Olympic opening ceremony for another.
She grew up in Prague, Czechoslovakia through a very difficult part of history. Her father,
Franticek Fikota worked as the personal guard to President Masaryk, the first Czech
President elected by the people, known as “The People’s President”. Her childhood was
tough as her father was arrested as a political prisoner and her family kicked out of the city.
The Cold War years and all its cruelty and injustice only made Olga tougher and a lifelong
advocate for peace from a young age. She developed a courageous voice for social justice
and a strong anti-war stance as a public speaker and author.
Growing up she was a talented multi-sport athlete playing soccer, basketball, hockey, and
team handball. She was competitive, strong, fast, and loved the comradery of athletics. Olga
started University, attending Charles University Medical School already an accomplished
athlete. She represented the National Team in European Team Handball as goalie and
played center on the National Basketball team until it conflicted with her studies and work
in hospitals. She was introduced to the discus by a boyfriend she was dating and
immediately loved the individual event and the energy of track and field. Her talent and
passion were easy to spot and quickly she was encouraged and inspired by the Russian
Discus Champion Nina Ponomaryova and future teammates Dana and Emil Zatopek. Within
two years of starting to throw the discus, she made the 1956 Olympic team and went to her
first Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. Olga loved representing her country and her
people. This journey to Australia was the longest expedition athletes from then a
communist block’s nation undertook at the height of the Cold War. The team consisted of
63 competitors, 51 men and 12 women. It was there that her life changed forever as she
both won her event, and met an American hammer thrower, Harold Connolly.
At the age of 24, in 1957 Olga married Harold Connolly, and came to Boston,
Massachusetts. She eventually settled in Culver City, California raising four children, Mark,
Jim, Merja and Nina. She was never granted permission to return or compete again for her
beloved Czechoslovakia and therefore trained and competed for the United States in her

next four Olympics, while raising her children. Upon her arrival she wasn’t well received
by many in the United States due to the politics of communism, but she rose above the
prejudice for the love of the Country and worked hard on her English speaking and
writing. Olga became the Director of Intramural Sports and the Director of the Study Skills
Center at Loyola Marymount University 1971-1980. In 1972 Olga ran and was elected to
the Culver City School Board of Education. She was a big supporter of the Culver City Parks
and Recreation Programs and worked hard to improve Physical Education in Schools. Of
course, her priority were her kids and Olga would spend hours cooking nutritious foods,
Czech casseroles, stews, protein powder pancakes and delicious pastries and cookies. All
the local kids knew where to go when hungry-they would gather at the Connolly’s for food
and goodies. During the Christmas and Easter holidays she would stay up well into the
night baking hundreds of Czech holiday cookies to give to the people in her life who were
her friends and neighbors and to celebrate the season with her 4 very hungry athletic
Throughout her life Olga dedicated her time and knowledge to promotion of literacy and
physical fitness. In the Summer of 1979, she Directed an educational camp for inner-city
teenagers from Oakland and San Francisco, The “Unions for Youth” Vocational Exploration
Camps of the National Football League’s Players’ Association. She then became the
Director of the Literacy Program at the Toberman Settlement House in San Pedro for six
years supervising pre-school and senior programs until state budget cuts ended the
program. Olga found work at the Boys and Girls Club of Moorepark as the Activities
Director to make ends meet until she became the Program Development Coordinator with
the Los Angeles, California Conservation Corps. Olga loved working with young adults to
empower them, to improve their education and become confident in their abilities. When
working at the CCC she designed a computer lab program that collaborated with the
University of Southern California’s resources. Olga inspired and trained current CCC
leaders and continued to be very proud of their service today.
Olga worked her next eight years as a Fitness Specialist at the University of California,
Irvine, Anteater Recreation Center. She loved being a personal trainer and running the
“Fitness in the Park” program for Faculty and Staff. She also served as a volunteer coach at
Orange Coast College for the throwers before moving to Las Vegas for five years. Now
working at Durango EOS Gym, Olga at the age of 86 earned her certification as an
International Corrective Exercise Specialist with ISSA. She spent hours, day and night
working to pass this highly skilled, international course and did it with flying colors.
Throughout her life, Olga also loved working part time as a writer. She wrote about fitness
as well as the Olympic Ideals taught by Pierre De Coubertin: that “Sport and the Olympics
should be used to promote the development of physical and mental fitness; and about the
importance of playing sport in order to educate young people in a spirit of mutual
understanding and friendship; and also, to build a more peaceful world and a sense of
international goodwill”. She is the author of three published books, including her early
autobiography, “The Rings of Destiny” and many articles for the LA Times, Sports
Illustrated, Evening Outlook, Daily Breeze, Life, and Lower Extremities Magazine (LER).

When living in Costa Mesa, Ca. Olga found time to volunteer as a nature guide for kids at the
Bolsa Chica Nature Center in Huntington Beach. She was passionate about nature and one
fun personal hobby she enjoyed was tracking the International Space Station, sometimes
driving to the desert or to the ocean at night to view it without the city lights.
Olga served as a member of Los Angeles Mayor Bradley’s Advisory Committee for Cultural
Affairs; California State Athletic Commission and received numerous awards, among them
the high valued Fair Play Award from the Czech Chapter, European Fair Play Movement,
and the Pacesetter Award from the Academic and Professional Women, University of
California at Irvine. In 2006, she was invited back to Prague, to the 50th Reunion of the
1956 Olympic team. She was finally embraced and able to speak her truth, her love of
country and to explain that she always wanted to return to represent her homeland, like
pro athletes in America commonly do today. She healed relationships and celebrated with
her teammates, friends, and country again and it meant everything to her. In October 2023
and January 2024, Olga had another big reunion with the Czech Consulate General in Los
Angeles and with the Czech Arts and Sciences Society, where she was invited to speak and
share her experiences in her beautiful Czech language and in English. Olga, we will miss
you. Your contributions to making the world around you a more educated, healthy, peaceful
and compassionate place will always be remembered. Thank you for your courage, humor,
advocacy, caring and inspiration. Olga is survived by her four children, Mark, Jim, Merja and
Nina and grandchildren Van Freund, Denali and Cianni Connolly.