Czech sports fans are currently counting down the days till the Winter Olympics, which get underway in Turin on Friday. The surprise of the last winter games in 2002 was Ales Valenta; previously little-known, he shot to fame and fortune after taking gold in freestyle aerial skiing. Since then Valenta has failed to build on that success, and on Sunday he finished a poor 16th in a World Cup event in the Czech resort of Spindleruv Mlyn. He was carrying a knee injury, but says he still could have done better.
"The injury limited me a lot but at the same time I wouldn't make too much out of it - I decided to jump and I could have done better. I'm really disappointed in my performance. It's more a question of mental approach than technique...I think I may have been trying too hard to protect my knee. I should have gone for it 100 percent, regardless of the consequences."
Ales Valenta was one of only two Czech medallists at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. The other was cross country skier Katerina Neummanova, who took bronze in the 15 km free - she is in great form this season and will be hoping to do better in Turin.
As for the Czech ice hockey team, Petr Prucha - one of a number of Czechs at New York Rangers - looks like missing the Turin games after sustaining an injury in a match on Saturday. That could make room for star winger Patrik Elias, who has made a very impressive return from injury since the Czech squad was announced.
And forward Milan Hejduk hurt his neck during a game on Thursday, but is expected to be fit again this week.
The Czech Republic's biggest star Jaromir Jagr celebrates his 34th birthday on February 15th, the day the Czechs play their first game in Turin against Germany. Jagr continues to lead the NHL's points table: he has now notched up 80 points, including 35 goals. The last time he achieved 80 points in a season was five years ago when he was still at the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In the Czech Extraliga, Slavia Prague are still ahead of Liberec at the top of the table despite losing 1:0 to the White Tigers on Sunday. But the gap between the two clubs couldn't be narrower - both are on 97 points but Slavia's goal difference is three better than Liberec's.
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