Sports News

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In Sports News: the 116th Velka Pardubicka steeplechase is a success from a Czech perspective - and for 53-year-old trainer-jockey Josef Vana; it's mission accomplished as the Czech Republic beat lowly San Marino to make it three winds out of three in their campaign to reach football's Euro 2008 - and strikers Baros and Koller are back together, and back among the goals; and ice hockey coach Vladimir Ruzicka is set to decide whether to leave crisis-hit Slavia Prague.

Trainer-jockey Vana a happy man as Velka Pardubicka goes well for Czechs

Photo: CTK
The Velka Pardubicka steeplechase was first held in 1874 (making it the oldest steeplechase on the European continent) and is regarded as one of the toughest races of its kind. An estimated 25,000 spectators turned out on Sunday for the 116th Velka Pardubicka, which was most successful from a Czech point of view, with the Czech trained horse Decent Fellow coming in first. Its rider, Josef Bartos, was the first Czech jockey to win the event in five years. Remarkably, the second-placed Juventus was ridden by Josef Vana, 53, who also trains that horse and winner Decent Fellow. After the race, Vana said age need not be an issue, when you have the right animal.

"When you have the right horse it isn't a big problem. But it's still true that I was pleasantly surprised how Juventus dealt with some difficult situations at jumps. I think it's a horse for the future...I'd like to thank everyone in our team, and everybody who crossed their fingers for us. And for anybody who didn't - it serves them right!"

Female jockey hangs up whip after failing to complete tough race for fifth time

Taxis jump, photo: CTK
Among the 17 jockeys taking part in Sunday's Velka Pardubicka was one woman, Martina Ruzickova. After previously failing to complete the Velka Pardubicka four times, her luck did not change on Sunday, when she fell at the treacherous Taxis jump. Ruzickova, who is 42, says she is now planning to retire.

Czechs brush aside San Marino to make it three wins out of three in Euro qualifiers

Simone Bacciocchi, left, and Alessandro della Valle, right, of San Marino try to stop Czech striker Jan Koller, photo: CTK
The Czech Republic's perfect start to the campaign to qualify for football's 2008 European Championships continued on Saturday, with a victory over San Marino making it three wins out of three. San Marino are one of European football's true minnows, and the Czechs cruised to a 7:0 win. As well as the obligatory three points, the match - held in Liberec - was important in giving Jan Koller and Milan Baros the chance to find their scoring feet again, after spells of injury and poor form for both strikers. They got two goals apiece, while Marek Kulic, David Jarolim and Jan Polak bagged the rest.

Milan Baros had this to say after the game.

Czech striker Milan Baros, right, and Nicola Albani of San Marino fight for the ball, photo: CTK
"I always look forward to every game with the national team. It was the first competitive game I started since we played Italy at the World Cup, so you could say my season has just started. My season has started well, although it didn't start till October. I hope I make it through the whole season without injury, and that it continues like this."

Baros and Co. will be in action again on Wednesday, when they take on the Republic of Ireland in Dublin. The Czech Republic currently top Group D, three points ahead of Germany who have played a game less.

Ruzicka to decide future as Slavia slump continues

Coach Vladimir Ruzicka, photo: CTK
After leading Slavia Prague to the finals of the ice hockey Extraliga last season, Vladimir Ruzicka has said he will decide whether to step down as coach this week. Slavia are bottom of the table and have lost seven games in a row, the latest defeat at the hands of Kladno on Sunday.