Czech sport has had a pretty good year: a singles finalist at Wimbledon, gold medals in world and European rowing events as well as an ice hockey world title and surprise silver medal at the women’s world basketball championship hosted by the country. But there was little real suspense about who the sport’s personality for 2010 would be: speed skater Martina Sáblíková.
At the end of February at the Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, the then slight 22-year-old Czech Martina Sáblíková won her second gold medal in the games and third medal overall after already picking up a bronze.
Later in the year she went on to win gold medals in the world and European championships. All in all, Sáblíková set the bar almost impossibly high for other Czech sportsmen and women to match in 2010. She might have achieved even more had not illness marred her start to the current ice skating season.
So it was no real surprise when she stepped out on Wednesday night to be proclaimed sportsperson of the year following a vote by Czech sports journalists. This is what Sáblíková had to say at the awards ceremony.
“I would really like to thank everyone for this award because this season was exceptional for me and I am happy that I can round it off with this. I would like to thank all those who help our sportsmen and women, even when we aren’t at our best, because that helps us to pick ourselves up and come back again.”
Some of the other contenders admitted that this year the real contest was for second place, a position occupied by another Winter Olympics winner Lukáš Bauer. The cross country skier brought back silver and bronze medals from Canada as well as winning the Tour de Ski competition. Rowing single skulls world and European gold medallist, Ondřej Synek, was third.
The top two team awards went to the World Championship winning men’s ice hockey team and the silver world championship winning women’s basketball team.
In the sports personality stakes, she now only trails four times award winners, gymnast Věra Čáslavská and javelin thrower Jan Železný. And few should bet against Sáblíková equaling and probably surpassing those totals given her still tender age, now 23. Personally, she still appears as modest as ever.
While almost no-one questioned Sáblíková’s selection, there was one question was being posed in the corridors of the plush Prague hotel. After five years in a row of women picking up the top award, where were the men?
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