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Sporting successes

 
photo:  (sxc.hu)
 

Among the sports that Czechs have been the most successful in, we can rank not only ice hockey, football, athletics and the water slalom, but also, for example, cycle ball, in which the unbeatable Pospíšil brothers won 20 world titles during the '70s and '80s.

 

Decathlon

The Czech Republic has been at the absolute pinnacle of the decathlon for a long time. The world reign of the Czech decathlon was started by Robert Změlík, who won gold at the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992. Czechs showed the world that the decathlon is not only about strength, and that specialists in the throwing disciplines need not necessarily win all the time. From this time on, other decathletes have focused on stamina training following the Czech example.

After Změlík, the charismatic Tomáš Dvořák entered the field. However, this three-time world champion, European champion and winner of the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, began to experience health problems in 2000. That was when the time of Roman Šebrle had arrived.

It was Šebrle who on May 27, 2001, first broke the magical boundary of 9,000 points in the Austrian town of Götzis and, with a score of 9,026, wiped out Dvořák’s world record. Šebrle left for the championships in Edmonton in 2001 as the favorite. Dvořák, however, won and gained his third world championship title. Šebrle gained his revenge in the Olympic contest in Athens in 2004, when he occupied the highest position by a long margin. Šebrle is currently No. 1 in the decathlon.

Water slalom

The Czech Republic also regularly wins medals in the water slalom. Thanks to the popularity of descending rivers and the amount of artificial canals, dominated by the canal of Prague-Tróji, new talented competitors are constantly appearing. The huge popularity of the water slalom competitors in the Czech Republic is thanks to the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992, where Lukáš Pollert won. Four years later, this success was continued by Štěpánka Hilgertová, who was regarded as the First Lady of this Olympic discipline in the following years. She was successful in the World Cup and in the World Championships, and also achieved gold at the Sydney Olympics.

Double canoeing also has a tradition in the Czech Republic. Marek Jiras together with Tomáš Máder won bronze in Sydney. Their feat was matched later by Jaroslav Volf and Ondřej Štěpánek in Athens. All of these athletes are regarded as part of the world’s elite.

Football and ice hockey

Despite all this, however, the most popular sports in the Czech Republic remain football and ice hockey. The Czech Republic is a world superpower in these sports. Both sports have huge membership bases and we must also not forget to add the number of unregistered amateurs. Amateur league competitions exist as well as one-off tournaments, and it is no problem to rent a football field or an ice rink. Nevertheless, league attendances are indifferent, with the high points of the sporting season being delivered by the prestige events. This is also seen in the propagation of football and hockey in the media and the interest shown on the part of sponsors.

Wins by the national teams are regarded as festive occasions and the representatives are pampered like returning heroes. When the ice hockey team returned in 1998 from the Olympic Games in Nagano, an infatuated crowd on the Old Town Square in Prague chanted the name of the Czech goalkeeper, declaring, “Hašek to the castle.” The chant paraphrased what people called out during the 1989 revolution, when they demanded that the then-dissident, Václav Havel, be installed in Prague Castle as president. At that time, the resounding shout was “Havel to the castle.”

Another sports

The Czechs even deserve credit for the worldwide popularity of certain sports. This mainly concerns handball (and the pure Czech version, which is not so widespread and is referred to as “national handball” - as distinct from normal handball, the field is divided into several parts and every player is allowe to move only in some defined parts, according to his position in the team), volleyball and cyclocross. The Czechs rank among the pioneers of these sports and in the past have been medal collectors in these disciplines on both the international and club levels. Furthermore, the Czechs are engaged in a functional capacity on the supreme bodies of the relevant international associations and so help determine the direction for the further development of these sports. For example, the Czech Republic was one of the main creators of the newly-established European Volleyball League.

 
 
Author:
 
Added: 08.12.2009
 
 
 

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