Sport in Czechia
Sports play a part in the life of many Czechs, who are generally loyal supporters of their favorite teams or individuals. The two leading sports in the Czech Republic are ice hockey and football. Tennis is also a very popular sport in the Czech Republic. The many other sports with professional leagues and structures include basketball, volleyball, team handball, track and field athletics and floorball.
The country has won 14 gold medals in summer (plus 49 as Czechoslovakia) and five gold medals (plus two as Czechoslovakia) in winter Olympic history. Famous Olympians are Věra Čáslavská, Emil Zátopek, Jan Železný, Barbora Špotáková, Martina Sáblíková, Martin Doktor, Štěpánka Hilgertová or Kateřina Neumannová. Sports legends are also runner Jarmila Kratochvílová or chess-player Wilhelm Steinitz.
Czech hockey school has good reputation. The Czech ice hockey team won the gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics and has won twelve gold medals at the World Championships (including 6 as Czechoslovakia), including three straight from 1999 to 2001. Former NHL superstars Jaromír Jágr and Dominik Hašek are among the best known Czech hockey players of all time.
The Czechoslovakia national football team was a consistent performer on the international scene, with eight appearances in the FIFA World Cup Finals, finishing in second place in 1934 and 1962. The team also won the European Football Championship in 1976, came in third in 1980 and won the Olympic gold in 1980. After dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the Czech national football team finished in second (1996) and third (2004) place at the European Football Championship. The most famous Czech footballers were Oldřich Nejedlý, Antonín Puč, František Plánička, Josef Bican, Josef Masopust (Ballon d’or 1962), Ladislav Novák, Svatopluk Pluskal, Antonín Panenka, Ivo Viktor, Pavel Nedvěd (Ballon d’or 2003), Karel Poborský, Vladimír Šmicer, Jan Koller, Milan Baroš, Marek Jankulovski, Tomáš Rosický and Petr Čech.
The Czech Republic also has great influence in tennis, with such players as Karolína Plíšková, Tomáš Berdych, Jan Kodeš, Jaroslav Drobný, Hana Mandlíková, Wimbledon Women’s Singles winners Petra Kvitová and Jana Novotná, 8-time Grand Slam singles champion Ivan Lendl, and 18-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova.
The Czech Republic men’s national volleyball team winner silver medal 1964 Summer Olympics and two gold medalist in FIVB Volleyball World Championship 1956, 1966. Czech Republic women’s national basketball team win EuroBasket 2005 Women. Czechoslovakia national basketball team win EuroBasket 1946.
Sport is a source of strong waves of patriotism, usually rising several days or weeks before an event. The events considered the most important by Czech fans are: the Ice Hockey World Championships, Olympic Ice hockey tournament, UEFA European Football Championship, UEFA Champions League, FIFA World Cup and qualification matches for such events. In general, any international match of the Czech ice hockey or football national team draws attention, especially when played against a traditional rival.
One of the most popular Czech sports is hiking, mainly in the Czech mountains. The word for “tourist” in the Czech language, turista, also means “trekker” or “hiker”. For hikers, thanks to the more than 120-year-old tradition, there is a Czech Hiking Markers System of trail blazing, that has been adopted by countries worldwide. There is a network of around 40,000 km of marked short- and long-distance trails crossing the whole country and all the Czech mountains.