Staying afloat

Olympic kayaking medallist Vavrinec Hradilek reveals how he used his love of sport to launch a floating kayak bar and volleyball venue on Prague’s Vltava River – all while continuing to compete at the highest level.

Vavrinec Hradilek demonstrated power and precision as he adeptly navigated 23 gates and paddled his way to a silver medal in K1 canoe slalom at the Olympic Games London 2012.

More recently, the 31-year-old has been applying his talents to a new venture – launching the Kayak Beach Bar on the waters of Prague’s vibrant Naplavka riverfront in the summer of 2017.

“It was supposed to be just a place that rents kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, but then we decided to add the beach volleyball court,” Hradilek tells Athlete365. “We also have yoga and in the winter we have a sauna to keep it running year round.”

Hradilek is currently managing to balance his new business interest with his training and recently raced to a Czech national title at his home course on a channel of Prague’s Vltava river. And while he isn’t planning on competing a full schedule of World Cup events this season, Hradilek is determined to qualify for a third Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Here, he explains how his sporting background has helped him in his new endeavour and offers his advice to fellow athletes about planning for life after sport…

Applying knowledge from competitive sport to business

“Both are very time-consuming. Succeeding in sport is a lot of hard work; success doesn’t just happen. It is the same thing with running a business like this. It is rewarding any time a friend or random guest gives positive feedback on the whole project. Like sport, I always see things that are not perfect and can be improved. We need to keep our guests satisfied through hard work.”

Similarities of competing in elite level sport and operating a business

“You need a strong support team in both. I couldn’t have achieved what I have in kayaking without my coach and physios, and although running the Kayak Beach Bar is not physical, I couldn’t have made this happen without my business partner.”

The transition from full-time athlete

“For so many years, the only thing you focus on is training every day, eating good food, sleeping and recovering. Then you realise you will have to do something else; it can be very scary. It’s something that athletes need to be thinking about. I started thinking about this in 2013 after I went for a meeting at the Kayak Bar on one of the canals in Copenhagen and thought we could replicate this in Prague.”

Promoting sport and physical well-being

“I want to increase the amount of kayak users here. Kids are always on their phones and captivated by social networks and the latest technologies, but if we can get them out paddling with friends, then that’s a very good thing. It is a goal of ours. We have also cooperated with the Czech Olympic Committee to help promote Olympic Day, especially to kids in the community.”

Advice for opening a business

“Obtaining the proper permits and stamps to operate here on the river was not easy, but we stayed with it, made some changes to this barge and now I’m very proud of what we have achieved. You just need to have an idea and continually work on developing it. Then you need to go out and do it.”

Take the Athlete365 course “Career Transition: Life After Sport” to gain further insights and set yourself up for the next stage in your career