Alena 'Ája' Vrzáňová (also Zanová, married name: Steindler) (born May 16, 1931), is a Czech figure skater. Vrzáňová is the 1949 & 1950 World Champion and 1950 European Champion.
Vrzáňová was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1931. Besides figure skating she also played piano and attended ballet school.
After spending the winter of 1949 at home in Czechoslovakia, her father advised her not to come back from the upcoming World Championships and she agreed. She defected from Czechoslovakia during the 1950 World Figure Skating Championships in London and was eventually offered political asylum. Her mother followed her in March under dramatic circumstances: her plane was hijacked. Her father, a professional cello player, visited them several times, but never decided to join them. She herself did not return to Prague until 1990.
In 1969, she married Czech-born innkeeper Pavel Steindler; they adopted two children. They ran the Duck Joint restaurant in New York City, and later the Czech Pavilion.
She started sports at the age of three when her parents bought her skis. They were spending each winter in the Krkonoše mountains. This tradition was interrupted during the Second World War, and then she started figure skating. The conditions for training were very difficult, as she had to train in early winter mornings. Her training sessions were held in darkness because of the dim-out regulations. The sessions took place in the open Štvanice Stadium before the sessions for hockey players, or in the CLTK club tennis courts, which were flooded with water and frozen.
In 1946, she became the Czech junior national champion. In the autumn of 1946, she moved to Richmond, London to be coached by Arnold Gerschwiler.
In 1947, she won the Czech national championships and placed 7th at the 1947 World Figure Skating Championships. After the communist party seized power in Czechoslovakia, the united sport leadership criticized Vrzáňová’s preparation in the United Kingdom.
Vrzáňová represented Czechoslovakia at the 1948 Winter Olympics. She placed fifth in the event, behind compatriot Jiřina Nekolová.
In 1949, Vrzáňová won her first World Championship title in Paris, overcoming difficult circumstances – loss of her music records and having blunted the edge of her skate just before she skated.
After winning the 1950 European Figure Skating Championships, she won a second world title at the 1950 World Figure Skating Championships. After this, she went on the European tour instead of going home.
Following her comeptitive career, Vrzáňová moved to the United States and performed for the traveling show Ice Follies for three years under the name "Aja Zanova" then joined the Ice Capades. She also participated in television ads and other shows.
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