The Czech Republic have advanced to the second phase of the World Ice Hockey Championships, after securing first place in their group with a 5:1 win over Germany in Prague on Wednesday night. The Czech football team, meanwhile, were beaten in a home friendly by Japan. And boxer Rudolf Kraj's dreams of a second Olympic medal have been dashed.
In Canada it is referred to simply as "The Game", a national sport, a spectator passion, and a winter pastime. But, Canadians are far from alone in their passion: though they may have invented ice hockey, this sport more than any other, carries similar resonance for the Czechs, whose own hockey tradition reaches back to the turn of the 20th century. It may have taken them forty years to become world champions and ninety to win Olympic gold, but few doubt the Czechs' place in the world of hockey today. They have stars in the NHL and one of the best
The Czech Republic has been gripped by ice hockey fever, with the sport's World Championships due to start in Prague and Ostrava on Saturday. On the eve of the competition, the biggest Czech hockey star of all time, Jaromir Jagr, talks about the Czech team's chance of success, the passion Czechs have for the sport and how his club team-mates from North America will enjoy visiting the Czech Republic with their national teams.
The Czech ice hockey team have had mixed results in their last competitive games before the World Championships, which get underway in Prague on Saturday. Meanwhile, coach Lener says selecting a squad will not be easy, with several Czech NHL stars now available. In football, leaders Ostrava have found their winning touch again, while internationals Rosicky and Smicer are both back after injury. And in tennis, Iveta Benesova has been defeated in the final of the Estoril Open in Portugal.
Jaromir Jagr returns to the Czech Rep to train for the upcoming Ice Hockey World Championships; goalie Tomas Vokoun backstops the Nashville Predators to an important win over the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the Stanley Cup play-offs; Sparta Prague downs Pilsen to keep chances against Ostrava Banik alive; and Jiri Welsch is set to make NBA history as the first Czech to ever appear in a post-season NBA game.
Prague's new state-of-the-art ice hockey arena saw its first game on Sunday, when Slavia Prague took on Hame Zlin in the third game of the Extraliga playoff finals. In the NHL, Patrik Elias was the Czech player with the most points in the regular season. In football news, Sparta Prague have played their first game under new coach, and former Sparta star, Frantisek Straka. Elsewhere, Ostrava slipped up at Zlin while Olomouc have gone second, at least for a short time.
Sparta Prague have sacked their fourth manager in two years, Jiri Kotrba. The Czech football league champions are ten points behind leaders Ostrava, with only seven games to go. In ice hockey, defending champions Slavia Prague have made a remarkable comeback in the Extraliga semi-finals. Further afield, Czech star Petr Nedved has scored his 300th NHL goal, and against a Czech goalie to boot. In tennis, Jiri Novak has been beaten in the third round of the big-money Nasdaq-100 Open in Miami.
Jaroslav Plasil, the only Czech player left in the Champions League, has received his first call-up to play for the Czech national team. The player tells us of what the call-up means to him, and how his club Monaco still hope to bounce back after a Champions League defeat against Real Madrid. Meanwhile, in the Czech league Sparta continued their poor run with a third 0:0 home draw in a row. In the ice hockey Extraliga playoffs Sparta lead Slavia on games, while Zlin are through to the final after beating Pilsen.
The race for the Czech football championship is hotting up, with Slavia closing the gap on leaders Ostrava by beating them 2:0 away. Sparta Prague manager Jiri Kotrba has been fined for swearing - his bad language was clearly audible on television. Both ice hockey Extraliga playoffs are 2:1 on games. In skiing slalom ace Sarka Zahrobska has won two medals at the national championships, while cross country star Martin Koukal has won a Czech Olympic Committee award for the best sporting achievement of 2003.
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