Ledecká stuns world with historic Olympic success; Czechs take seven medals in Pyeongchang; doubles star Siniaková drives Fed Cup glory; Plzeň win fifth championship in seven seasons; and Kometa lift back to back ice hockey titles.
Any look back at 2018 in Czech sport simply has to begin with Ester Ledecká. She stunned the world at the Winter Olympics in February by winning gold in alpine skiing’s super-G category AND gold in the snowboard parallel giant slalom. Before setting off for Pyeongchang, the Czech, then aged 22, told me she was frequently asked about the unusual combination.
“In the last two years since I decided to take part in the World Cup in both sports the press and all the people around started to go, OK, she’s really doing both. They even thought I had just decided to do both but I was doing that since I was a child. Both here in the Czech Republic and when I’ve been around the world they always say, How is it possible? But for me this is the only way.”
Ledecká in fact became the only woman in history to win gold at a Winter Olympics in two unrelated events and was dubbed “the star of the Games” by The Guardian. To nobody's surprise, she recently won the Czech Sportsperson of the Year poll, by a record margin.
The Czechs took seven medals in South Korea. As well as Ledecká’s gold brace, Michal Krčmář claimed silver in biathlon sprint and speed skater Martina Sáblíková earned silver in the 5000m, while the team took three bronze medals, for Karolína Erbanová in the speed skating 50m, Eva Samková in snowboard cross, and Veronika Vítková in biathlon sprint.
With Petra Kvitová and Karolína Plíšková unavailable, the team was powered to victory by 22-year-old Kateřina Siniaková, who claimed two of the singles rubbers.
“It means a lot. Above all I’m glad I could be part of it and win those two points. Last year I made my debut in the competition and I really appreciate just being in the team at all. The atmosphere is always great and I enjoy these team events. It’s a very beautiful end to the season for me – something I didn’t dream of at the beginning.”
Siniaková and her doubles partner Barbora Krejčíková had an amazing year away from the Fed Cup; the pair won both the French Open and Wimbledon and were crowned women’s doubles team of the year.
Viktoria Plzeň were crowned Czech football league champions for the fifth time in only seven years in May. The West Bohemians raced ahead of the pack in the first half of the season, with a record-breaking 14 wins on the trot. However, they let their massive lead shrink and only managed to secure the title with one round to go. Plzeň defender Roman Hubník had this to say amid the celebrations at the club’s Štruncovy sady stadium.
“I’m glad that we managed it and that we took the final step at home. I’m glad we’ll be able to enjoy it and I’m sure we’ll spend the whole night partying with our fans. It’s the happiest day of the year.”
At the end of the year Plzeň beat Roma in their final Champions League group game to ensure a berth in the Europa League after Christmas. It was the fifth time coach Pavel Vrba steered the West Bohemians to the spring phase of Europe’s second-tier competition.
Slavia Prague, who led the domestic league – four points ahead of Plzeň – at the end of the winter half of the 2018–2019 season will also be in Europa League action in the New Year.
The Czech national team replaced Karel Jarolím with Jaroslav Šilhavý as manager and the switch paid off. Šilhavý won three of his first four games in charge and kept the Czechs in League B in the Nations League.
Kometa Brno were crowned champions of the domestic ice hockey Extraliga. It was the first time in over a decade that any club had retained the title and also saw Kometa set a new record of 13 Extraliga trophies in total overall.
Just as in 2017, Brno had hovered around the cut-off for an automatic place in the playoffs during the regular season. However, they came good at the exact right moment and again lost only two games in the knockout stages.
The Czech Republic took three medals at the European Athletics Championships in Berlin in August. After a slow start, the team claimed all their medals in the closing days of the meeting: silver for Nikola Ogrodníková in the javelin and Anežka Drahotová in race walking and bronze for Eva Vrabcová Nývltová in the marathon.
The Czech Republic’s basketball players qualified for the sport’s World Cup for the first time in the independent history of the state this year. Czechoslovakia’s last appearance in the competition was in 1982.
A win over Bosnia and Herzegovina in September ensured that the Czechs made it to the next world cup, which starts in China at the end of August 2019.
Czech aerobatic pilot Martin Šonka became world champion in the sport after winning the Red Bull Air Race at the Texas Motor Speedway in November. The former Czech Air Force fighter pilot had placed second the previous year.
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