Sunday saw one of the biggest successes ever in Czech cycling: 22-year-old Roman Kreuziger won the 10-day Tour de Suisse or Tour de Switzerland after building a commanding lead in the final time trial. It is the first time a Czech cyclist has won a Pro Tour race. The young Czech will now set his sights on the most gruelling race of all, the famous Tour de France.
In Sports News: the search for a new Czech soccer manager goes on after the widely respected Ivan Hašek turns down the job, citing differences with the leadership of the Czech football association; the Czech ice hockey team, by contrast, have got a new boss, after Vladimír Růžička is given a contract that should see him at the helm until after the 2010 Winter Olympics; and Roman Kreuziger’s win in the Tour of Switzerland is one of the Czech Republic’s greatest successes in cycling.
Some may say 2008 has been a good year for sport and all in all I’d have to agree all except for one thing, one small niggling detail, one small unfortunate item: every team, every professional sportsman or woman I’ve set hopes for has done either outright badly this year, or worse, done well but stumbled on the final hurdle.
In this Monday’s Sports News: the Czech Republic crash out of Euro 2008 in a scarcely believable manner, as their last Group A game against Turkey turns into a living nightmare in the last 15 minutes; Czech captain Tomas Ujfaluši says he and his team-mates were short on luck, and energy; meanwhile, manager Karel Bruckner – in charge for the final time – rues the Czechs’ inability to deal with a period of Turkish pressure.
Ron Fletcher is in many ways the archetypal West Coast fitness guru. Following the death of his teacher Joseph Pilates, Fletcher moved to LA where he developed his own version of the Pilates Method. His classes in the 1970s were attended by many of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and his work helped make Pilates the world-wide exercise phenomenon it is today. Now a hale 87, Ron Fletcher is in Prague at the moment for a Pilates conference. When we met, I first asked him about his work with Joseph Pilates, which began in the 1940s.
The sound of a golf club hitting a ball has become an increasingly familiar sound as more and more Czechs take to a new pastime – golf. Until fairly recently, most Czechs thought “handicap” only meant a disadvantage and “green” stood for nothing else but the colour. Not any more. According to a recent survey conducted by the KPMG agency, more than half of all the golf courses in post-communist Europe are located in the Czech Republic. While in the early 1990s there were only about 5 golf courses to choose from, now there are close to 80 of them.
The Czech Republic’s footballers were beaten 3:1 by Portugal in their second game at the European Championship on Wednesday evening. That result was perhaps unfortunate for the Czechs, whose play showed marked signs of improvement. Now it’s going right down to the wire: Petr Čech and Co. have to beat Turkey to advance to the quarter-finals.
Just a week ago the Czech ice hockey player Jiří Hudler celebrated the greatest success of his career, when his club the Detroit Red Wings won the NHL’s Stanley Cup. Hudler, who is 24, is now looking forward to showing the coveted trophy to fans in his home town of Olomouc during the summer. Soon after he arrived at Prague Airport on Wednesday morning, I spoke to the young star about his Stanley Cup success, and the retirement (announced on Monday) of team-mate Dominik Hašek.
A series of 4km fun run events will be held in cities and towns across the Czech Republic this year, in order to raise money and awareness for cancer research in the country. The format of the events will be similar to that of a successful scheme in the UK which has been running since 1994. And, like the UK events, the Czech version will be sponsored and organised with the help of supermarket giant Tesco. I went along to the inaugural press conference to find out more.