Czechs mourn three hockey players killed in Russian plane crash
Thousands of people came to Prague’s Old Town Square on Sunday to pay last respects to hockey stars Josef Vašíček, Jan Marek and Karel Rachůnek who died in last week’s plane crash in Russia, along with their Lokomotiv Yaroslavl teammates. The ceremony, organized by the Czech hockey association, was attended by many former and current players including Jaromír Jágr, Dominik Hašek and Patrik Eliáš who delayed his departure for the US to be able to come.
“I’m glad I could be here and say goodbye to the guys, and to honour their memory on behalf of all their teammates. We feel great pain over the loss; it’s difficult to understand what happened. You think it will be better when you wake up the next day but it’s not.”
Forwards Josef Vašíček and Jan Marek and defenseman Karel Rachůnek died when a plane carrying their team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed near the Russian city on September 7, killing all but two on board; one of the survivors died later in hospital.
The Czech national hockey team lost three of its most reliable and popular members who helped the team win gold at the World Championships in 2005 and 2010. The team’s manager, Slavomír Lener, told reporters how he remembers the three players.“It’s a very sad day but I can still see them smiling and having fun – joking around in the locker room. Fans of course know what they can do on the ice but as a coach, I know how they behave when we travel some place. I still speak of them in the present.”
Fans also paid homage to players in their home towns of Havlíčkův Brod, Jindřichův Hradec and Zlín.
Viktoria Plzeň prepares for first Champions League appearance
Turning to football now, where Viktoria Plzeň are gearing up for their first-ever Champions League appearance. The Czech titleholders play Belarus’ Bate Borisov in Prague on Tuesday as their home stadium is unfit for a Champions League game. To prop up their defence, Plzeň recently signed Radim Řezník from Baník Ostrava. In Friday’s Czech top division game, Plzeň beat Zlín on their turf 3:2 despite seeing a red card for Plzeň striker Milan Bakoš just before the end of the first half. However, Plzeň’s winning goal in the 79th minute should have been disallowed for offside.
US Open: Veselý loses in boys’ singles final
In the sport of tennis, Czech junior tennis player Jiří Veselý made it to the US Open boys’ singles final without losing a set in the process – but lost the final match on Sunday to the Brit Oliver Golding 7:5, 3:6 and 4:6. The top seeded Czech won the first set but lost the second in just 33 minutes; the third went to the Brit after he converted a single break point. The US Open was last tournament in the junior category for the 18-year-old Czech; his coach, Jaroslav Machovský told Czech Radio what he needs to improve.
“He needs to get in a better shape, he has to approach the net more, and play faster. He does not play slow but has to build up his stroke to get the winning balls. He sometimes stays at the base line too long.”
Czech men’s volleyball team reaches European championships’ play offs
The Czech Republic co-hosts the men’s European Championships with Austria. The Czechs have fared well in front of the home crowd in Karlovy Vary; in the tournament’s Group B, the Czech team Portugal 3:2 and Estonia 3:0 and secured a spot in the play-off stage. On Monday, the home side plays the strong favourite Russia for first place in the group; the outcome will determine their opponent in the play-offs.
Canoeing: Hošková claims world title
In the sport of slalom canoeing, Czech Republic’s Kateřina Hošková won the gold medal in the non-Olympic C1 category at the world championships in Slovakia on Sunday. Hošková was the only athlete to lay down a clean run although she capsized towards the end of race; however, she managed to flip her canoe back and finish the race with the fastest time. After the win, the world champion said she thought the accident was going to cost her.
“It did hold me back quite a bit. My first thought right then is not fit for print. I just thought it was the end, and that I had messed up all over again.”
Kateřina Hošková was the only Czech medallist at the event which disappointed all other hopefuls in the national team.