1972 Olympic champion
1971-1973 world champion
Five-time European champion
Nepela, who competed for Czechoslovakia, was the first Slovak Olympic champion. He was coached by Hilda Mudra. After his death due to AIDS-related complications, his native city of Bratislava in the Slovak Republic named a stadium after him, and continues to hold a prestigious annual ISU international skating competition called the Ondrej Nepela Memorial. In December 2000, the Slovak Republic named him Slovakian athlete of the century; Mudra received the award on his behalf.
In his autobiography When Hell Freezes Over, Should I Bring My Skates?, Toller Cranston describes a brief tryst with Nepela, and remembers him this way:
"Many people perceived him as handsome or even as beautiful. He evidenced an androgynous, Nijinsky-like quality. In physical features he reminded me of a Tartar from the Eastern European steppes, with slanted Mongolian eyes yet light skin. He was small. He was fine. He was a steady, nerveless competitor, completely lacking in personality or finesse: a generic Soviet-satellite skater who had been browbeaten into becoming a fine technician -- less fine in free skating and more precise or womanlike in the school figures" (Cranston, p. 54).