Silver for shooter Hykova at Olympics a pleasant surprise for Czech sports fans

Lenka Hykova, photo: CTK

On Wednesday the Czech Republic won its second medal at the Olympic Games in Athens, but not through one of the country's famous athletes: little-known shooter Lenka Hykova said she was surprised to qualify for the final of the 25m pistol event, never mind take the silver. But take the silver the 19-year-old did, and now her smiling face is splashed all over the newspapers.

Lenka Hykova,  photo: CTK
A couple of days ago few people in the Czech Republic had heard of Lenka Hykova, but now her name is everywhere. The 19-year-old from Pilsen said she would have been happy just to reach the last eight, but in the end she was just a couple of points away from taking gold in the 25m pistol event.

Hykova, who recently did her maturita school-leaving exams, had not originally qualified for the Athens Olympics, and only made the Games after two Albanian shooters were disqualified for drug taking. Her father and trainer Vladimir Hkya was a member of the Czechoslovak team at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. Her mother is from Kyrgyzstan.

Tomas Berdych,  photo: CTK
Interestingly, Lenka Hykova's roommate in the Olympic Village is another shooter from Pilsen, Katerina Kurkova, the only other Czech to have taken a medal at the Olympics, bronze in the 10m air rifle.

After only one medal in the first five days at the Olympics, Hykova's win may have come almost as a relief for many Czech sports fans, with some competitors failing to live up to expectations. Martin Tenk was named world shooter of the year in 2003, but failed to reach the final of the 50m pistol event. And Stepanka Hilgertova, who took gold at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics, ended up in fifth place in the final of the kayak slalom.

One bright note is the emergence of 18-year-old tennis player Tomas Berdych, who reached the last eight in a strong field, overcoming world number one Roger Federer along the way. Berdych, who comes from the Moravian town of Prostejov, is currently ranked 74th in the world. But on this form we may see him rise in the rankings in the not too distant future.