In Sports News this Monday: Orphee de Blins wins Velká pardubická for second year in succession, while legendary jockey Josef Váňa, 60, retires; 400m hurdles world champion Zuzana Hejnová wins women’s category in European Athlete of Year awards; Czechs beat Malta 4:1 in World Cup qualifier; and Czech FA drop Vladimír Šmicer as general manager.
Orphee de Blins wins Velká pardubická while legend Váňa retires at 60
One of Europe’s toughest steeplechases, the Velká pardubická, has been won by the 11-year-old mare Orphee de Blins. Ridden by Jan Faltejsek and trained by Grzegorz Wroblewski, the horse had been an outsider when she triumphed in Pardubice for the first time last year. Twelve months later she was the favourite, confirming the bookies’ expectations by comfortably winning Sunday’s 123rd edition of the famous race.
But Faltejsek’s second victory in a row on Orphee de Blins was perhaps slightly overshadowed by the retirement of legendary jockey and eight-time race winner Josef Váňa. Váňa’s Tiumen was battling it out for second spot when – after being obstructed at the final jump – the horse threw the jockey, who departed the turf on foot to tremendous applause from the packed stands. Afterwards the veteran, who turns 61 next weekend, said the manner in which his final Velká pardubická had ended was beside the point.
“When you get to the finish, you get to the finish. If you’re not there, it doesn’t matter what happened during the race. It’s just tough luck. I think I rode well. I enjoyed it a lot. We were starting to take off and I’m sure we could have come second. But that’s racing for you. We were beaten by an excellent horse, a two-time winner. Maybe she’ll win more times – it’s our task to make sure that doesn’t happen, but that’s work for next year.”
Josef Váňa is referring there to his other career as a leading trainer, from which he has no plans to retire.
Hejnová crowns dream season with European Athlete of Year award
The Czech Republic’s Zuzana Hejnová crowned the best season of her career by being named European Athlete of the Year at an awards ceremony in the Estonian capital Tallinn on Saturday night. Hejnová was undefeated in the 400m hurdles in 2013, becoming world champion and triumphing in the Diamond League. She told Czech Television she was delighted with the latest award – and spoke about her expectations for next year.
“It really means a lot to me. I’m glad that everything worked out for me. I don’t think I could have done more than I did this season, so I deserved it… I know that all my competitors will be preparing for me, but I’m going to prepare just as well, or even better, than this year. So that’s probably my greatest motivation.”
Czechs beat Malta 4-1 as World Cup campaign winds down
The Czech Republic beat the minnows of Malta 4:1 in an away soccer World Cup qualifier on Friday night. The Czechs effectively had zero chance of reaching Brazil prior to the game, the most interesting aspect of which may have been a first international strike for defensive midfielder Tomáš Hübschman after 12 years and 55 matches. The other goals came from David Lafata, Václav Kadlec and Tomáš Peckhart. The Czech Republic’s World Cup qualification campaign concludes on Tuesday away to Bulgaria, who are still chasing second spot and a place in the playoffs.
Czech FA let Šmicer go as general manager of international squad
The Czech Football Association are not planning to extend Vladimír Šmicer’s contract as general manager of the international squad, he announced on Monday. The former midfielder and Champions League winner, who earned 80 caps as a player, has been in the post since 2009. He served under coach Michal Bílek, who quit last month after a defeat to Italy.