27-12-2001

By Ian Willoughby

We begin with ice hockey and a day after the Czech Republic's squad for the 2002 Winter Olympics was announced the Czechs won their last competition before the games - the Baltic Cup in Moscow. The Czechs beat the hosts Russia 4:0 last Saturday to clinch the trophy, which is part of the Euro Hockey Tour. The Czechs now lead the tour. The Czech press have been quick to point out that the Czech Republic also won the Baltic Cup four years ago - before going on to win gold at the Nagano Olympics.

Czech goaltender Dominik "The Dominator" Hasek is back in good form ahead of the Salt Lake City games - Hasek has only conceded one goal in his last three games for his NHL club the Detroit Red Wings.

The Czech captain for the Olympics, Jaromir Jagr, had a rather mixed reception when he visited his old club Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time on Friday. Jagr played for Pittsburgh for eleven years before joining the Washington Capitals last summer. During the first third the Pittsburgh fans booed loudly every time Jagr was in action. Video highlights of Jagr's long career at the club were played during the break, changing the mood among the home fans who then gave their old hero a standing ovation. Jagr was moved to tears by the crowd's reaction.

The Czech cross country skier Katerina Neumannova slipped back a couple of places in the World Cup table last weekend, when she came seventeenth in the 15 kilometre race at Ramsau, Austria. Neumannova is now in fourth place in the World Cup.

Football now and last week the British authorities finally granted Czech striker Milan Baros a work permit to play for Liverpool. Baros, who is 19, said the work permit was the best Christmas present he could have received. Baros was not included in Liverpool's squad against Aston Villa on Wednesday but his two Czech club-mates Patrik Berger and Vladimir Smicer were - indeed Smicer took a pass from Berger before scoring the winner for Liverpool.

Moving onto rally driving and the Czech Tatra team are hoping to repeat their success of recent years in the Total Dakar 2002 rally, which begins on Friday. The team's full title is Total Tatra Marathon. Karel Loprais has led the Tatra team to victory six times in the trucks category - including a victory in last year's race. Loprais's team mates are Josef Kalina and Petr Hamerla. The rally is due to end on January 13.

Having already been named Czech athlete of the year, javelin thrower Jan Zelezny has also been named sportsman of the year. Decathletes Roman Sebrle and Tomas Dvorak came second and third - in a vote by the Club of Sports Journalists. Zelezny, Sebrle and Dvorak are all member of the Czech Army's Dukla sports team.

27-12-2001