Czech disabled athletes are ranked among the best in the world. At the Paralympics in Athens, they won 16 gold medals, eight silver medals and seven bronze medals. At the Paralympics in Peking in 2008, Czech athletes won a total of 27 medals, six gold, three silver and eighteen bronze. The country ranked sixteenth in the number of medals won, which is an excellent sporting triumph.
They were similarly successful in previous Paralympic competitions and the version for the deaf – the Deaflympics. The best deaf sportswoman of 1999 was the Czech skier, Petra Kurková.
In the Czech Republic, disabled athletes rank alongside regular sportsmen and women. Among other things, a testament to their level of attainment are the strict nomination criteria. For a long time now, only potential medal winners have been sent to the Paralympic Games, but despite this the last Czech team comprised 67 members.
The popularity of the disabled understandably cannot equal that enjoyed by their able-bodied colleagues, but each top event is accompanied by a media campaign. Gala evenings are regularly held for the Paralympic team at which the Paralympic Athlete of the Year is elected and the most successful disabled athletes are announced.
The cyclist Jiří Ježek has become a legend among athletes. This competitor, who had a leg amputated under the knee, is one of the most successful disabled cyclists in the world. He can boast two Paralympic titles from Sydney (2000) and a gold medal from Athens (2004) and Peking (2008). To this we can add a World Championship title in road racing from 2002 and the fact that he has successfully made his mark in all cycling disciplines starting with track events and ending with cyclocross. He competes here with non-disabled riders. For example, he won second place in the very difficult competition Král Šumavy (250-kilometer track), where he was beaten by the winner only in the finish spurt. There was the only one second between him and the winner!
Jiří Ježek lost his leg in a car accident when he was 11 years old. Because of his handicap he became a prosthetic technician, and he is very successful in constructions of artificial limbs intended for cycling. He says that his biggest motivation is to win recognition in some professional teams. That is why he gave up his work before the 2004 season and started his own team, in which way he has more time for training and rehabilitation. Ježek cycles more than 25,000 kilometers a year.
Disabled cycling has a long tradition in the Czech Republic. The main propagator of this sport was Josef Lachman, who was the only Czech to reach the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul, where he won silver. Two of his successors were Michal Stark and the spastic, Roman Musil, who refocused his efforts in Athens on athletics alone.
The most successful competitor in Athens was, however, the swimmer Martin Kovář. He fought his way to three gold medals, created three world records in the crawl and then triumphantly ended his career. Kovář, who in the past was active as an adviser to former Prime Minister Vladimír Špidla, decided to use his experience in the Paralympic movement. Martin Kovář is also actively participating in the plans for holding the Olympic and also the Paralympic Games in Prague.
The Czech team brought two gold, one silver and four bronze medals back from the Paralympics in Peking. Swimmer Běla Hlaváčková won both gold medals.
Since 1999, Czech representative Petra Kurková is unbeatably the best deaf female skier in the world. She won four gold medals at the Olympic Games in Davos in 1999. Four years later, Kurková, in spite of a serious viral disease, brought home two gold, one silver and one bronze medals from Swedish Sundsvall. She has been proclaimed the best deaf sportswoman in the world. Petra Kurková also won a gold medal for the supercombination at the Deaflympics in Salt Lake City in 2007.
AthleticsAthletes with a wide range of disabilities participate in the track and field disciplines. Competitions are categorized according to disability. Some athletes compete in wheelchairs, while others use prosthetic limbs. Athletes with impaired vision can compete with a guide.
The disciplines themselves are similar to those for able-bodied athletes. Track events are run using wheelchairs. Athletes also compete in the throwing events and the decathlon.
Recently, Czech athletes in the throwing events have had the most success, though track athletes such as Vojtěch Vašíček or Peter Škorník have done well in past years. Both Vašíček and Škorník competed in the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon, which is held in Japan and attracts only the world’s best wheelchair athletes.
Terry Fox Run
The famous Terry Fox Run is also held in the Czech Republic. This humanitarian event, connected with financial aid for research into cancer and the propagation of a healthy lifestyle, found a firm base in this country as far back as 1992. At that time, the Terry Fox Run was only held in Prague and only a few dozen people turned up. By 2004, there were more than 200 runs, with several tens of thousands of participants who managed to raise over CZK 2 million for cancer research.
The Czech Republic is also famous for its impeccable organization of disabled championships. The last took place in 2003, when the European Cycling Championships were held in Teplice and in Prague.
The union of physically disabled athletes in the Czech Republic covers six sporting associations. This concerns the Czech federation of athletes with central movement problems, the Czech association of mentally disabled athletes, the Czech association of deaf athletes, the Czech association of physically disabled athletes, the Czech association of the internally disabled.