Fears for ice-hockey Olympic success after Hasek limps off injured

Dominik Hasek, photo: CTK

There's been mixed success for Czech sportsmen and women at the Winter Olympics in Turin. The Czech ice-hockey team beat Germany 4-1, but star goalkeeper Dominik Hasek is injured. Meanwhile cross-country skier Katerina Neumannova failed to follow up Sunday's medal success after coming fifth in the 10-km classical event.

Dominik Hasek,  photo: CTK
The Czech ice-hockey team got off to a good start with a 4-1 win over Germany on Wednesday evening, but a dark cloud hung over the victory after goalie Dominik Hasek limped off the ice after injuring his leg. Hasek fell awkwardly to the ice while making a save halfway through the first period. He then skated off and was replaced by second goalie Tomas Vokoun. Hasek, who is 41, has had problems with his groin in the past, but he said the injury was to a leg muscle and not the groin. Hasek led the Czechs to an Olympic gold medal in 1998, and for some the injury is a major blow to Czech medal hopes. But Czech Radio's Petr Soucek, who was at Wednesday's match, says all is not lost for the Czech team:

Photo: CTK
"Hopefully it's nothing serious and Dominik will rest only for two days. There is the second very good goalkeeper Tomas Vokoun; he led the Czech national team to the title of world champions, he's also experienced and his statistics from this NHL season are very good too, so coach Alois Hadamczik is lucky that he has too very good goalkeepers. Dominik Hasek's injury is not that dangerous for the hopes of the Czech team."

Nonetheless the Czech team which won the gold at Nagano in 1998 was built around Dominik Hasek - what's the mood like in the Czech team?

Photo: CTK
"I think everyone was relying on Hasek, but they also know the quality of Tomas Vokoun so I think the mood is still quite OK and I think the whole Czech team is aiming for the gold medal and they will succeed in their fight."

Petr Soucek, speaking to us earlier by telephone. The tight schedule in Turin means the teams have to play five games in seven days - the next game starts in just a few hours, on Thursday afternoon, when the Czechs play Switzerland. Before Hasek's injury the Czech Republic was one of the four favourites to win the gold, along with Russia, Canada and Sweden.

Katerina Neumannova,  photo: CTK
There was more disappointment for the Czechs on Thursday when Katerina Neumannova narrowly fell short of a medal in the women's cross-country skiing 10-km classical event. Neumannova, who won the silver on Sunday in the women's 15km pursuit, battled through driving rain to finish in fifth place. Estonia's Kristina Smigun, who beat Neumannova on Sunday to clinch the gold, also finished in first place on Thursday.

Katerina Novotna came 6th in the Short Track Skating 500m semi final - the best ever result by a Czech skater, while namesake Michal Novotny came 7th in the Men's Snowboardcross Qualification Run.

The Czechs now find themselves sharing joint 17th place with Croatia in the medals' table - and that's thanks to Katerina Neumannova's silver medal on Sunday.