Sport and Czechs

The most popular sports in the Czech Republic are football (soccer), ice hockey, volley-ball, tennis and kickball (an original Czech sport similar to volley-ball in which the players kick the ball over a low net.)

The most famous Czech sports grouping is the mass participation Sokol organisation. Although the main goal of Sokol is to promote national health and sports, it played a key role in the national resistance to the Austrian Empire, the Nazi occupation and the Communist regime. Soon after it was founded in 1862, colourful gymnastics rallies were held regularly in Prague until the German occupation in 1938. The Communist regime banned the organisation after its 1948 rally, but Sokol continued to exist abroad. In July 1994, Sokol staged a triumphant return with a rally in Prague.

Football
Football is the most popular sport in the Czech Republic. The Czech Football Association has run the country’s top league, the 1st league, since 1925. The most popular club, AC Sparta Praha, have been remarkably successful in both domestic and European contests. Czechoslovakia were runners-up in the 1934 and 1962 World Cups, European champions in 1976 and the Czech Republic narrowly lost to Germany in the finals of 1996’s European championships held in England. F. Planicka, I. Bican, J. Masopust, I. Viktor, A. Panenka, Z. Nehoda, T. Skuhravy, K. Poborsky, P. Berger and P. Nedved are among the most famous Czech footballers.

Ice hockey
For years Czechoslovakia's national ice hockey teams have ranked among the top five or six national teams in the world. The national ice hockey team have won the World Hockey Championships nine times (the last time in 2000 in Petrohrad). They came 1st in the Olympic Games in 1998.
Today, Czech ice hockey suffers from a mass exodus of its best players to foreign leagues, especially to the NHL. Among the most famous players to have left are J. Jagr, D. Hasek, M. Straka, R. Holik, R. Reichel, M. Rucinsky and V. Vujtek. V. Nedomansky, J. Holecek, V. Martinec, I. Hlinka are among the most famous Czech ice hockey players.



Tennis
Czech tennis players have been remarkably successful in international competitions. One of them, Martina Navratilova, is arguably the best female tennis player of all time. Many other male and female tennis players have appeared in the top 100 rankings of international tennis including
Drobny, J. Kodes, I. Lendl, P. Korda, H. Mandlikova, H. Sukova and J. Novotna.


Track and Field
Czech athletes have made a great impression on track and field competitions. The runners E. Zatopek and J. Kratochvilova, the javelin-throwers D. Zatopkova and J. Zelezny, the discus-throwers L. Danek and I. Bugar, the decathlete R. Zmelik, the shot-putters H. Fibingerova and R. Machura and others are among the most famous Czech athletes. Contemporary world athletics features the decathlete Tomas Dvorak and triple-jumper Sarka Kasparkova - both of them won the last World Athletics Championship in 1997. The gold medal at the Olympic Games in Athens 2004 won the decathlete Roman Sebrle.


Other Sports
The multiple Olympic medal winner Vera Caslavska (1968) became one of the most famous personalities in Czech sports and also played an important role in the international Olympic movement. The Pospisil brothers won 20 world championship titles in bicycle polo.
The famous Czech school of ski-jumpers has fostered athletes who have won several European and world titles and Olympic victories (J. Raska, J. Parma, P. Ploc, P. Dluhos). Cross-country bikers I. Fisera and R. Simunek have brought home numerous world champion titles.