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03 July 2020 | in Winter FISU World University Games

Spotlight: Remembering the Strbske Pleso 1987 Winter Universiade

Take a trip back through 60 years of Universiade history. The 26th stop on FISU's Universiade history tour takes us to a mountain village in the High Tatras of then-Czechoslovakia.

StrbskePleso 87 alpine man


Czechoslovakia joined Italy as a three-time host of the Winter Universiade when President Gustáv Husák opened the Games on 21 February 1987, in Štrbské Pleso.


Czechoslovakia had previously organised the Winter World University Games in Špindlerův Mlýn in 1964 and in 1978 but handed the responsibilities for 1987 to the village resort of Štrbské Pleso, where a record 596 athletes from 28 countries across five continents turned out for the 13th edition of the Games.

StrbskePleso 87 alpine women

The highlight of the much-anticipated Opening Ceremony was the arrival of the Universiade flame from Hiroshima, Japan, that burned at the Summer Universiade two years earlier in Kobe. Since its atomic bombing during World War II along with Nagasaki, Hiroshima has become a symbol of friendship, peace, reconciliation and solidarity – the very virtues embraced by FISU, the Universiade and the entire university sports movement around the world. The Hiroshima flame used in Kobe could not have been more fitting to open an event standing for all of those values.


The Štrbské Pleso Universiade did not receive the level of media coverage as some of the earlier editions but the event meant a great deal for the athletes, who once again were impervious to politics and all forms of discrimination as they competed in a spirit of friendship and fair play over the course of the week.

StrbskePleso 87 crosscounty1

Ever since Sestriere 1966, the USSR had lorded over the medal standings – a phenomenal run of nine successive Universiades – but the Soviet dominance finally came to an end in Štrbské Pleso, where the country finished second to the host nation. Czechoslovakia not only knocked the Soviet Union from its perch but did so by a considerable margin, winning 17 gold medals to the six won by the Soviets.


The Czechs topped the podium in its bread-and-butter sports: ice hockey, Nordic combined and numerous Alpine and ski jumping events. They also exceeded expectations in disciplines traditionally dominated by the Soviets, including cross-country skiing, sweeping the two women’s individual events and winning bronze in the relay. Soviet cross-country skier Vladimir Nikitin, however, romped to gold in the three men’s events, just as he did two years earlier at the Belluno 1985 Winter Universiade.

StrbskePleso 87 crosscountry2