Famous Czech Athletes

Thanks to its successful athletes, the Czech Republic enjoys a good reputation around the world.Many Czechs figure among the world elite in their chosen discipline.

Athletics and gymnastics 

Věra Čáslavská (born 3 May 1942)

Czech gymnast and multiple Olympic champion. At the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, she won in several different categories (balance beam, uneven bars, vault, floor exercise). She also won gold at several World and European Championships in the 1960s. In 1991 she was presented with the Olympic Order, and from 1995 to 2001 she was the Czech representative on the International Olympic Committee.

Olga Fikotová

Discus thrower of Czech origin. She won the gold medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne. In 1957, she moved to the USA to be with her American husband, and because of the Communist regime she could no longer represent Czechoslovakia. In 1972, she became the first flag bearer of the US Olympic team not to have been born in the USA.

Tomáš Dvořák (born 11 May 1972)

Decathlete and three-time World Champion. In 1995, he finished second in the World Indoor Championships in Barcelona; in 1996 he was runner-up in the European Indoor Championships in Stockholm. In the same year, he won the bronze medal at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Tomáš Dvořák won the World Championships three times: in 1997 (Athens), 1999 (Seville) and 2001 (Edmonton).

Helena Fibingerová (born 13 July 1949)

Czech shot putter. She won her first European Indoor Championships in 1973 in Rotterdam, and defended this victory a year later in Gothenburg. She is an eight-time European Indoor Champion and holder of three outdoor and six indoor world records. Her 1977 indoor world record of 22.50 metres still stands.

Šárka Kašpárková (born 20 May 1971)

Triple jumper Šárka Kašpárková won the bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. A year later, she won the World Championships in Athens.

Jarmila Kratochvílová (born 26 January 1951)

The most successful Czech runner ever. She won the silver medal at the 1980 Summer Olympics held in Moscow. In Helsinki in 1983, she became World Champion in the 400 m and 800 m, setting new world records in both events. Her personal best of 1:53:28 minutes in the 800 m remains a world record.

Roman Šebrle (born 26 November 1974)

Decathlete. He finished third in the heptathlon in the World Indoor Championships in Maebashi in 1999, and won the silver medal in the decathlon at the Sydney Summer Olympics (2000). He won the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where he also set a new Olympic record of 8,893 points. In Götzis (Austria) in 2002, he became the first decathlete to break the 9,000 point barrier (9,026). He won gold at the 2006 European Outdoor Championships in Gothenburg and at the 2007 European Indoor Championships in Birmingham. In 2007, he also won the World Championships in Osaka, Japan.

Barbora Špotáková (born 30 June 1981)

Czech javelin thrower.In 2007, she won the gold medal at the World Championships in Osaka. At the end of the 2008 season, she won the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart. She won the gold medal at the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008. 

Emil Zátopek (19 September 1922 – 21 November 2000)

Long-distance runner and most famous Czech athlete. At the 1948 Summer Olympics in London he won gold in the 10,000 m and silver in the 5,000 m. At the Helsinki Olympics (1952), he won three gold medals (the marathon, 10,000 m and 5,000 m). He was recognised as the world’s best athlete in 1949 and 1952 and was European and World Champion on several occasions. In 1997 he was recognised as the Greatest Athlete of the Twentieth Century and Olympian of the Century.

Dana Zátopková (born 19 September 1922)

Javelin thrower and wife of Emil Zátopek. In 1952, she won the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Helsinki. She won the European Championships in Bern in 1954 and then in Stockholm four years later. She won the silver medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics in her last major competitive event. She was presented with the Olympic Order for her contribution to athletics and the Olympic movement.

Jan Železný (born 16 June 1966)

Czech javelin thrower, holder of six world records, four Olympic medals (three gold) and three World Championship titles. He was European Athlete of the Year in 1996 and 2000. His triumph at the Sydney Olympics earned him the honour of World Athlete of the Year 2000. His last world record of 98.48 m achieved in 1996 at an event in Jena, still stands.

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Kateřina Emmons (born 17 November 1983)

Sports shooter – air rifle and small-bore rifle. She is the 2002 World Champion in air rifle shooting. She won her first Olympic medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, when she finished third in the air rifle event. At the Beijing Olympics she won gold in the 10-metre air rifle and silver in the three positions event.

David Kostelecký (born 12 May 1975)

In 2008, he won the gold medal in the men’s trap event at the Beijing Summer Olympics.

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Water sports 

Martin Doktor (born 21 May 1974)

Flatwater canoer.At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta he won gold medals in the C1 500 and 1,000 metres. During his career, he won important World and European Championship races, and the World Cup on multiple occasions.

Štěpánka Hilgertová (born 10 April 1968)

Czech slalom canoer.One of Štěpánka Hilgertová’s greatest achievements is the two Olympic gold medals she won in Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000). She won individual races at the World Championships on two occasions – at Seu d’Urgell in 1999 and four years later in Augsburg. She won the 2000 European Championships in Mezzana, Italy.

Martin Kovář (born 20 March 1967)

A phenomenal swimmer, he won three freestyle races (50 m, 100 m, and 200 m) at the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens. He also set new world records in these events.

Lukáš Pollert (24 March 1970)

Czech slalom canoer. He won gold at the Barcelona Olympics (1992) and silver at the Atlanta Olympics (1996).

Ondřej Štěpánek and Jaroslav Volf (born 28 November 1979 and 29 September 1979)

Double slalom canoers. They won the bronze medal at the Athens Summer Olympics in 2004 and silver at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. They were World Champions in 2006.

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Stanislav Konopásek (18 April 1923 – 6 March 2008)

Player from the golden era of Czech ice-hockey. He was part of the Czechoslovak team that became World Champions in 1947 and 1949, and won the silver medal at the 1948 Olympics. Konopásek, along with other ice-hockey players, was arrested in 1950 and given a 12-year prison sentence for treason by the Communist regime.

Patrik Eliáš (born 13 April 1976)

Ice-hockey player, twice winner of the Stanley Cup (2000, 2003), currently plays for the New Jersey Devils. On 31 August 2006, he became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in the Czech Republic.

Dominik Hašek (born 29 January 1965)

This ice-hockey goalkeeper became famous playing for North American clubs – Chicago Black Hawks, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, and Ottawa Senators. He was awarded the Hart Trophy for the most valuable player in 1997 and 1998, the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender on six occasions (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001), and twice the Jennings Trophy for the goalkeeper playing for the team with the fewest goals scored against it. He won silver at the World Championships in 1983, followed by bronze in 1987, 1989 and 1990. He was recognised as the best goalkeeper of the 1987 and 1989 World Championships. He won a gold Olympic medal with the Czech team at the Nagano Winter Olympics (1998). Four years later he won the Stanley Cup with Detroit.

Ivan Hlinka (26 January 1950 – 16 August 2004)

Ivan Hlinka was part of Czechoslovakia’s World Ice-Hockey Championship winning team on three occasions (1972, 1976, 1977). At the Sapporo Olympics (1972) he won a bronze medal, followed by silver at Innsbruck four years later. After he ended his playing career, he became a coach. He led the Czech team to Olympic victory in Nagano in 1998 and to gold in the World Championship a year later. In 2002, Ivan Hlinka was inducted to the IIHF Hall of Fame. At the 2004 World Championship in Prague, he was declared a Czech Ice-Hockey Legend. Hlinka was only the second European to coach an NHL club.

Jaromír Jágr (born 15 February 1972)

Elite Czech ice-hockey player, regarded as one of the best players in the world. Pittsburgh (1991 and 1992). Olympic gold medallist at Nagano in 1998, five-time winner of the Art Ross Trophy for the most productive player, three-time holder of the Lester B. Pearson Award, winner of the Hart Trophy and numerous other awards. In 2005 he won the World Championships with the Czech team in Vienna, and spent several seasons with the New York Rangers. At the beginning of 2006, he became the most successful European ever to play in the NHL when he scored his 1,400th point. He now plays for Avantgard Omsk in Russia.

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Lukáš Bauer (born 18 August 1977)

Czech cross-country skier. He won the silver medal in the 15 km classical event at the Turin Winter Olympics in 2006. In the 2007/8 season, he was the overall winner of the Tour de Ski and World Cup in cross-country skiing.

Květa Jeriová-Pecková (born 10 October 1956)

Czechoslovak cross-country skier. She won a bronze medal at the Lake Placid Olympics in the US in 1980 and another bronze at the Sarajevo Olympics in Yugoslavia (1984).

Kateřina Neumannová (born 15 February 1973)

The most successful Czech skier ever. She won six Olympic medals during her career. At the Nagano Olympics in 1998, she finished second in the 5 km classical event and third in the 5 km + 10 km combined pursuit. While she initially left the Salt Lake City Olympics (2002) with one bronze medal (for the 15 km freestyle), after the disqualification of Russians Larisa Lazutina and Olga Danilova Neumannová was subsequently awarded silver in the 15 km freestyle and in the combined pursuit. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, she added a silver medal (in the 7.5 km + 7.5 km double pursuit) and a gold (in the 30 km freestyle) to her haul. At the Summer Olympics in Atlanta (1996), she came 18th in the mountain bike event. She won the World Cross-Country Skiing Championships twice – in both Oberstdorf and Sapporo she was first across the finish line in the 10 km freestyle. In the 2006/2007 season, she came third overall in the World Cup. She ended her professional career in March 2007.

Šárka Záhrobská (born 11 February 1985)

Czech alpine skier. In 2007, she won the World Slalom Championships. On the World Cup circuit, in the 2006/2007 season she came third overall in the slalom.

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Josef Bican (25 September 1913 – 12 December 2001)

Czech-Austrian forward. He was recognised as one of the top three strikers of the 20th century. He was top-scorer twelve times in his career, a feat for which the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) named him the greatest goalscorer of the last century.

Petr Čech (born 26 May 1982)

Goalkeeper Petr Čech was part of the Czech team that won the Under-21s European Championship in 2002. He became the senior team’s goalkeeper straight after this. At the EURO 2004 in Portugal, he helped the Czech Republic come third. A year later he won the English Premier League with Chelsea for the fist time; he has been named best goalkeeper of the UEFA Champions League three times, most recently in 2008.

Josef Masopust (born 9 February 1931)

Czech footballer. In 1962, he was part of the Czechoslovak team that lost to Brazil in the FIFA World Cup Final. In the same year, he was named European Footballer of the Year and won the Ballon d’Or. Pelé listed him among the 125 greatest living footballers in 2004.

Pavel Nedvěd (born 30 August 1972)

This elite midfielder became the Czech league’s top-scorer in 1996 and put in an excellent performance with the national team at the UEFA Euro 1996 in England, where he attracted the attention of foreign clubs. He spent five seasons with Lazio, winning the Coppa Italia with them in 1997/1998. In 1999, he was part of the Lazio team which won the last ever UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. In 2002, he joined Juventus. With the national team, he won the silver medal at the Euro 1996 and the bronze medal at the Euro 2004 in Portugal. In 2003 he was presented with the European Footballer of the Year award. He retired from international football on 16 August 2006 in a friendly against Serbia in Uherské Hradiště.

Antonín Panenka (born 2 December 1948)

Czechoslovak international footballer. He converted the winning penalty in the 1976 European Championship final to make Czechoslovakia European Champions.

František Plánička (2 June 1904 – 19 July 1996)

Goalkeeper. In 1934, he was captain of Czechoslovakia’s team as they finished second in the World Cup. In 1985, he was awarded the UNESCO International Fair Play Award.

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Radka Kovaříková (born 26 February 1975) and René Novotný (10 June 1963)

Czech pair skaters. In 1992, they came fourth in the Albertville Olympic Games. In 1995 and 1997, they were World Champions in their category.

Alena Vrzáňová (born 16 May 1931)

This figure skater won bronze at the 1948 European Championships in Prague. In 1949, she won her first World Championships. In January 1950, she became National Champion for the third time, won the European Championships in Norway and defended her gold in the World Championships in London.

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Speed skating 

Martina Sáblíková (born 25 July 1987)

Czech speed skater. In 2007, she became World Champion in the 3,000 m and 5,000 m. She defended her 5,000 m gold at the World Championships in Nagano (2008) and won bronze in the allround event at the European Championships.

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Ivan Lendl (born 7 March 1960)

The Czech-American Ivan Lendl became an icon of men’s tennis. In 1980, aged just 20, he was a member of the Czechoslovak team which won the Davis Cup. He won both the French Open and the US Open three times. He was twice winner of the Australian Open.

Martina Navrátilová (born 18 October 1956)

Her 20 Wimbledon titles made Martina Navrátilová an all-time tennis legend. She was only the third woman to achieve the Grand Slam, i.e. to win all four of the most prestigious tennis tournaments. During her career she won 59 Grand Slam titles in singles and doubles tournaments.

Nicole Vaidišová (born 23 April 1989)

During her short career, Nicole Vaidišová has already won six tournaments on the WTA circuit. Her two greatest achievements are reaching the semi-final of Grand Slam tournaments in 2006 (at Roland Garros) and in 2006 (at the Australian Open). She is the Czech Fed Cup team’s number-one player.

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Cycle ball 

Jindřich and Jan Pospíšil (born 23 March 1942 and 25 April 1945)

The most successful team in the history of cycle ball. They first became World Champions at the 1965 championship in Prague. They went on to defend this title another 19 times – for the last time in Ludwighaven in 1988.

Jiří Hrdlička and Radim Hasoň

Even today, the Czech Republic can boast world class champions. Most recently, young Czech players Jiří Hrdlička and Radim Hasoň won gold medals at the cycle-ball World Cup held in Dornbirn, Austria, in October 2008.

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Freestyle skiing – aerials 

Aleš Valenta (born 6 February 1973)

Aleš Valenta, the Czech freestyle skier, won the gold medal at the Salt Lake City Olympics (2002). In the second round, he pulled off a quintuple-twisting triple flip – the most difficult jump. He became the first professional freestyle skier to achieve this jump in an official competition.

Last update: 16.8.2011 16:02

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