On Tuesday the Czech ice hockey team plays its first match against Germany, a highly-anticipated match that should see players like Jaromir Jagr and new team captain Robert Lang in top form. One mystery that has been resolved for the time being: the question of who would start between the pipes. It will be none other than Dominik Hasek, who led the Czechs to gold at the Olympics eight years ago. At 41, Hasek is enjoying the season of the lifetime in the NHL, and the Czechs are hoping he will keep up the good work in the first game. Although originally his luggage - including equipment - was lost, it was found in time to allow him to appear in the game.
But, it won't be all Hasek in the coming days. The Nashville Predator's Tomas Vokoun will take to the ice in the second game, against Switzerland. Only after that will the team's coach Alois Hadamczik opt for a definite No. 1.
As for the game Tuesday? Germany have been fairly solid in the past and could be tricky. But most, including Josef Horesovsky - a member of the silver medal team at Grenoble in 1968 - think the Czechs should prevail. Earlier he spoke to Czech Radio:
"I think we have an excellent team and I think the players have a good chance of getting far. At the same time, it's sport, which means others will also be well-prepared. There's no question that the fight to the top will be tough."
One last curious item regarding the Czech team: a well-known video game manufacturer has reportedly tweaked its hockey management game for Olympic hockey, with the game predicting everything from the number of goals scored, by whom, and when, to how the Czechs will do at the Games. According to a story in the Czech daily 'Sport' the simulator has predicted a Nagano-style semi-final repeat against Team Canada. But, this time Canada wins, with goalie Brodeur stopping 41 shots. But really: how can they know?
Now, in brief: Day 4 of the Olympics was unfortunately a poor one for a number of Czech competitors in different sports. In figure skating, Tomas Verner put in a very disappointing performance in the Men's Short Programme, that saw him finish 22nd in a field of 30. His score was 59.71. By comparison, phenomenal Russian skater Evgeni Plushenko, who swept everyone into a cocked-hat, scored a never-before-seen 90.66.
In aerial freestyle skiing, Ales Valenta suffered a complicated fall during training that could make it difficult for the Czech to defend his gold from Salt Lake City. Valenta' fell during a triple flip with four twists. Afterwards he complained to having pulled a muscle; now, he has eight days before the final to get back into shape. Finally, on Tuesday 21-year-old Czech alpine skier Filip Trejbal suffered a horrific crash in the Men's Combined Downhill that saw him lose both his skis and helmet as he fell. The Czech junior world cup slalom champion got to his feet briefly after the crash, but was then aided down the hill on stretcher by medical personnel. He spent four hours in hospital undergoing tests, but luckily doctors found no breaks. Trejbal now hopes to compete in the slalom, his strongest event.
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