David Svoboda is an athlete every with every fiber of his being. He made it to the very top in the modern pentathlon by winning the 2012 London Olympics. Thanks to this success, he became known to those who aren‘t into sport. David himself admits that his life has changed in every way, and he is already part of the Czech show business. In an interview for LP-Life.cz, he spoke about how he feels about sports today, whether his future partner has to rock all five disciplines or how he and his twin brother Tomáš are seting up a sports school for children.
For the first time, and I hope for the last time in my life, I hosted an award ceremony for the Army Athlete of the Year poll. A few years ago, the idea was taken up that the event would be hosted by the athletes themselves. And I somehow failed to defend myself this year and said yes. But I'm no presenter.
Thanks! When I can speak off the top of my head and have something to say, I don't mind it. But when I have to follow a certain program that I didn't put together myself, and on top of that it keeps changing, it's terrible. But I got through it and hopefully it worked out somehow.
Do you feel that thanks to your victory back then, your sport has become more popular? Do people show more interest in it?
It was at least two or three years after the Olympics that we noticed a wave of greater interest among children and their parents. With a considerable delay, our sports center reacted to it, so we really have more pentathlonists in youth categories nowadays. I don't know if it was only thanks to my victory in London, it's likely, but I wouldn't dare to attribute the merit solely to myself. But we are growing, there are more and more of us. And it's true that it was probably a milestone, the year 2012, although we'd made it to the Olympics already in 2008 and 2004. There had been some results back then, too, but after 2012 the interest was much greater.
Since then you have been part of the show business, you're attending events, getting photographed with models. Has it changed your life? Do you like being part of this world?
It changed my life a lot, not only in terms my social life, but also my sports life and personal life. That includes matters related to business, sponsor offers and the like. It really changed my life in virtually every way.
I didn't find that particularly exhausting, I rather had a hard time during the year when everything changed so much. It was a huge shock for me, I had to get accustomed to it. I was more succesful in some respects and less in others, some things went slower for me, some things faster. I had to learn a lot of new things. I didn't mind that, but it was difficult.
For instance, I was a total newbie when it came to marketing negotiations. Nobody told me directly, but I've heard twice already that I was undercutting the prices for others in marketing, because I was negotiating everything by myself. I was new to it and I couldn't really tell where to aim. I have learned through all these experiences in business as well as through communication with various kinds of media, not only those related to sports. I made a lot of mistakes and I'm still making them, but hopefully not such serious ones as before.
You never felt like you didn't want to go, you'd rather be doing something else, but you needed your face to appear at the event?
We've never agreed on doing that, but it ended up that way a couple of times. We were both invited, but only one of us could make it.
It takes some experience and knowing at least one of us a little, then it's fine. We are the same, we're twins, and Tom is in the public life with me, whether he wants it or not, no one asked him. In a way, he doesn't have it easy.
He's been doing well in the recent years, he's got a lot of achievements in sports and since we are working on several projects together, the public already knows that there are two of us. It's not like people are approaching Tom and calling him "David" anymore. But quite often it happens that they approach the two of us, asking who is who.
There's simply two of us, it comes with many advantages but also some disadvantages. We've learned to live with it pretty well.
I don't think you would. Now you're fantasising about what it would be like, but when you live it, you don't really feel like it anymore. People often ask us if we switch on purpose. Both my brother and I usually say that a lot of people have thousands of opportunities to mistake and confuse us for each other every day, so we don't need to add to that. If it's happened five times in our lifetime that we have done it on purpose, that's one time too many. But then it's always funny, it's cool.
My brother had a great idea. He's been in education for about nine years, working for a private elementary school. And because they had good opportunities, he had such ambitions that he would lead children more towards sports and create a better background for it there. But the school is focused on general education, and as he was trying to promote this direction more and more, one day a colleague told him that he would have it easier, quote, if he started his own school.
My brother laughed about it at first, but after some time, he started to have second thoughts and decided he would found his own sports elementary school the way the two of us would have wanted it when we were children. We both went through sports elementary school, grammar school and the faculty of physical education, so all of our educational institutions were partly focused on sports. It was the best we could have at that time. But we are both aware of the shortcomings that today's athletes have to deal with.
The main problems lie in finding the optimal combination of education and sports training, participation in races and training camps. Today's schools usually allow this only in a limited way and individually. But the education system doesn't seem to take it into account at all.
Maybe so, but it's not true. Or rather, some are, some aren't. It might be that the impression comes from the fact that the less intelligent ones don't have the ambition to graduate from college. But the fact is that that talented people are generally both physically fit and very intelligent.
But in our society, it is customary that high-quality, skillful and talented athletes, of whom we have met many on our sports path, are often overpowered by their peers, their parents or their own study ambitions at key moments. They begin to devote more time to school, so as to get a good job in medicine, law, or engineering. That takes up a lot of their time, and even though they are skilful and talented, they eventually drop out of sports completely or keep doing them only as a hobby. That's how the sports environment loses a huge number of highly talented athletes. And that's a shame.
We want to contribute, at least a little bit, to ensuring that children can both get a good education and and do sports, do both things at the same time. There are other pillars we want to build on, such as health, environment and the like.
Location, an investor and all necessary permits. We have about six months of countless negotiations behind us. We are not completely at the start, quite a lot of things are coming along nicely. We already know what to do and what to avoid. As for the location, we already have our favorites, we've negotiated with several investors, didn't come to an agreement with some, but hopefully managed to with others. Now we have a year of hard work ahead.
The whole project is a double project that is based not only on the school, but also on a sports team that my brother and I named the Kalokagathia Alliance. That's an ancient Greek word which, simply put, means practising the path to enduring physical fitness and wisdom. For us, it is the ideal of the educational principle, which is based on both the physical and spiritual aspects. It is an ideal view of a harmoniously developed individual, an ancient ideal on which the Sokol movement and later modern olympism were founded. We accept this idea as our own, and we're actually trying to live our entire lives in accordance with it.
With this idea in mind, we have established a multisport team where we bring together great athletes from various disciplines. We take part in interesting relay races, where we put together a team, with the aim of competing for the top positions and delivering the best possible performance. We want to do our best, enjoy it and say hello to friends we don't normally meet, because we're all doing our own thing all year long.
At the same time, this sports team represents promotion and advertising of the core idea on which our elementary school is based. One day, the team should be composed of future graduates of this school. All of this is supported by Toyota, which has cars we love to drive. Other partners will hopefully catch up by the end of the year.
The last thing that appeared in the media about your private life was that a girl broke up with you during StarDance. And since then, no new one has appeared.
It wasn't exactly like that, but I don't really mind this variant, so I didn't try to contradict it. I broke up with my ex-girlfriend, the last one, long before, basically in early summer. I admit, however, that I thought it advantageous out of tactical reasons, that people had no clue and believed I was still taken, and frankly this tactical move proved to be a good one. I had my peace, although sometimes rumours appeared regarding whether I had a thing with the dancer Verča or not. Everybody was looking forward to it, I refrained from commenting and ignored it, and I actually walked away from it completely unscathed.
If I were to give you a honest answer, I haven't had time for anything in the last two years. That was partly why I actually broke up with my ex-girlfriend. Different interests were also part of it, she wanted to travel a lot, I couldn't be there with her, so we saw each other even less. And somehow the love has gone out. But I still have very little time, so I've had maybe three dates with interesting girls that I found attractive in the last year. But my busy schedule didn't give me the chance to develop it somehow. But I'm not complaining about anything.
Actually, I'm doing a lot of other things, although you're right, all of them are more or less related to sport. My partner definitely does not have to be a sportswoman, but she must have a positive relationship to exercise, otherwise I can't imagine it working.
I can imagine that, even if she was in good shape and we went jogging or cycling together, I would still wear her out. You can't look at it this way. Even if she was a very good athlete, it wouldn't be enough. (laughs) This isn't a criterion for me, I don't really care about it. But she should have a healthy life style anda positive attitude to sport in terms of entertainment. That is important to me, because common interests are essential.
I don't get those anymore, I used to some five, six years ago, but not now. I guess people already see me differently, which is good.
When there is a good opportunity to get drunk with my friends, I have no objections. But I don't have many such opportunities.
My family manage just fine without me, it really doesn't depend on me. And as for Christmas, I look forward to the holiday every year precisely because everything stops then. Few people work during Christmas, so I have to stop too. And have a great rest.