Sports News

Winter Olympics

By Ian Willoughby

Winter Olympics
The Winter Olympics start in Salt Lake City in just three weeks, and the Czech Republic will be hoping to bring back a medal or two. When the Sports Director of the Czech Olympic Committee, Jan Hrdina, dropped into the Radio Prague studio this morning we asked him how many Czechs are in the squad for the Olympics.

"There will probably be 78 sportsmen and women. That's the second biggest squad in the history of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. I expect at least two medals."

So Jan Hrdina of the Czech Olympic Committee isn't setting his hopes too high when it comes to medals at the Winter Olympics. What event in particular is likely to catch the imagination of the Czech nation?

"Our ice hockey team has been one of the most famous in the world over the last few years because they won the World Championships three times in a row. And there were of course other titles before that. And of course the victory in Nagano is still fresh in people's memories - it was only four years ago. That Olympic victory was unforgettable for many fans, and all around the world. Maybe it was a surprise. We'll try to repeat that surprise of course - even though it'll be very difficult."

One worry for Czech ice hockey fans could be the fitness of the Czech captain, Jaromir Jagr, who is currently suffering from a groin strain. Jagr has had a poor season so far with the Washington Capitals, since joining the club last summer. As well as not playing too well, Jagr has lost one of his front teeth since joining Washington.

Figure skating now and the Czech pair of Katerina Berankova and Otto Dlabola have scored the biggest success of their careers, coming fifth at the European Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland. The pair have been invited to take part in the exhibition which closes the competition on Sunday. They are also due to represent the Czech Republic at the Winter Olympics.

Moving on to tennis and the Czech Republic is not having a good Australia Open. Only Jiri Novak has made it to the third round of the Grand Slam competition. The 26-year-old came back from two sets down to beat the Italian Andrea Gaudenzi 2:6, 5:7, 6:2, 6:3 6:3 on Wednesday. Novak faces the Spaniard Franciso Clavet in the next round and must fancy his chances - he has played Clavet four times and beaten him on three of those occasions.

Among the Czechs who are out of the Australian Open are Daniela Bedanova, who reached the fourth round of the competition last year, and Kvetoslava Hrdlickova.

Football now and the Czech international Patrik Berger has asked the Czech manager Karel Bruekner to leave him out of the Czech squad for the next few months. Berger says the knee injury which kept him out of action for a period last year has not recovered completely and his number one priority at the moment is winning a regular place on the Liverpool team.

The Czech domestic league is still in the middle of its winter break. That does not mean however that the players are sitting at home watching TV. Many clubs have been holding intensive training camps and an astro-turf cup competition is currently taking place in Prague's Karlin district.