By Peter Smith.
The major story over the past day or so here in the Czech Republic has been the death of one of the greatest Olympians of all time, Emil Zatopek. Well, ironically perhaps, one of the greatest Czech athletes of modern times was honoured earlier this week as he was named the country's Athlete of the Year.
Jan Zelezny, the world record holder in javelin as well as gold medallist at the 92, 96 and 2000 Olympic Games, collected the Czech Athlete of the Year award for the sixth time. The decathlete Roman Sebrle, who took the silver in Sydney, finished as runner-up in the poll, with his rival Tomas Dvorak in third.
Zelezny's not just been honoured here, though. He has also been named runner-up in the European Athletics Association poll, and will travel to Malmo in Sweden on December 10th to receive his prize.
Turning to tennis, and the Czech Republic's ambitions of Federation Cup glory turned sour earlier this week at the semi-final stage. In Mandalay Bay an inexperienced Czech women's team were defeated 2-1 by a veteran Spanish side containing the likes of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez.
It wasn't all plain sailing for the Spaniards, though. 17-year-old Daja Bedanova pushed Sanchez-Vicario all the way in their singles match before eventually going down 5-7, 6-4, 6-3. Martinez saw off Kveta Hrdlickova in the second match to confirm Spain's place in the Fed Cup Final. Some pride was restored for the Czech Republic in the doubles, where Bedanova and Hrdlickova beat the lesser members of the Spanish team, Pasqual and Serna, in 3 sets.
Finally to football, and the champions Sparta Prague lost their first match outside the capital for fourteen months when they were beaten 2-1 at newly promoted Synot on Wednesday evening. The match appeared to be heading for a goalless draw until 10 minutes from time when Jiri Novotny headed into his own net to put Synot ahead. Maler added a second soon after before Jarosik pulled one back for Sparta in the dying seconds.
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