Daniela Moroz’s Olympic journey

Published on December 22nd, 2023

By Nick Zaccardi, NBC Sports
Daniela Moroz won six world titles before the age of 22 in formula kite, a sailing event that makes its Olympic debut next summer. Her family’s story begins with a pair of engineering scholars who left communist Czechoslovakia and then met for the first time on the other side of the world.

In 1983, 19-year-old Linda Moser, from just outside Prague, and friends took a trip to Yugoslavia with the aim of not returning home. They hitchhiked until finding a refugee camp in Belgrade. That same year, 24-year-old Czech Vlad Moroz joined a tourist ski trip to Yugoslavia, left the group during a lunch and cross-country skied to Italy.

“We basically decided to immigrate into the unknown,” Vlad said. “There was so much propaganda from the communist party about how bad the West is. Even though you didn’t believe it, you didn’t know for sure.”

Linda and Vlad each made it to separate refugee camps in Austria, though Linda’s group was briefly held by soldiers at the Yugoslavia-Austria border. A man in Linda’s group had an uncle in San Francisco, which was their ticket to the U.S. Linda had wanted to stay in Western Europe, but the wait to find a new home would have been longer.

Vlad had a sponsor who got him to Texas, after which he moved to the Bay Area to join friends from the refugee camp. Linda worked odd jobs while going to school. She at first took English as a second language classes at a community college, then transferred to the University of San Francisco and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

Vlad worked at a small machine shop before spending 35 years at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory overlooking the Cal Berkeley campus. But it was sailing — windsurfing, specifically — that brought Linda and Vlad together.

In that first year in the U.S., Linda caught a glimpse of windsurfers in the San Francisco Bay, found it exciting and signed up for an introductory class at the Berkeley Marina. Coincidentally, two Czech brothers led it.

Around that time, Vlad came across recreational windsurfers, which brought back his own memories of doing the sport before he immigrated. He found that there was a Czech community of windsurfers in the Bay Area, a group that included Linda.

Linda remembers first seeing Vlad in a parking lot after a session on the water, speaking with other Czech men. Linda and Vlad soon learned they shared similar stories, began dating and got married in 1993. They competed in windsurfing, an Olympic sailing discipline, at the local level for years.

In 2000, Linda raced the San Francisco Classic, a 20-mile zig-zag of the bay, while a few months pregnant with Daniela. The Classic is at the mercy of the fickle winds and waves in an area where Daniela has said many kiteboarders have needed Coast Guard assistance to get back ashore. In 2000, fewer than half of the Classic entrants finished, a select group that included Linda.

Daniela grew up doing sports including water polo and swimming, plus others on dry land. In skiing, she earned a nickname — “Copy Cat”— for her precocious ability to perfectly replicate the instructor. In ballet, a teacher said she was a natural at age 4. – Full Story

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