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Athletes do country proud

During a year of political squabbles, racial tension, and medical mishaps, Slovaks can take pride in 2000 as the year of two unprecedented Slovak successes in international sporting competitions.
On May 14, the Slovak national hockey team lost the gold medal match of the Ice Hockey World Championships 5-3 to the Czech Republic. But the defeat did not dampen the elation of the Slovaks at winning the silver, by far the country's best finish in a major international hockey competition.


Swimmer Martina Moravcová weeps on the medal podium.
photo: TASR

During a year of political squabbles, racial tension, and medical mishaps, Slovaks can take pride in 2000 as the year of two unprecedented Slovak successes in international sporting competitions.

On May 14, the Slovak national hockey team lost the gold medal match of the Ice Hockey World Championships 5-3 to the Czech Republic. But the defeat did not dampen the elation of the Slovaks at winning the silver, by far the country's best finish in a major international hockey competition.

Some 30,000 fans stayed out all night to celebrate the finish, dancing on SNP námestie and drinking untold bottles of champagne as the hockey heroes flew to Bratislava from Russia. They were greeted by raucous adoring fans and a magnificent early morning fireworks display.

"Finally something positive has happened in connection with Slovakia," said Soňa Szomolányi, the head of Comenius University's political science department. "This success has been tremendously helpful in building national pride - it reminds me of how the Austrians built their sense of national identity through the gold medal triumphs of their skiers in the 1950şs."

That sense of national pride was continued at the 2000 Sydney Olympic games, where 24 year-old swimmer Martina Moravcová became the country's first Olympic multi-medal winner after winning a silver in both the 100 metre butterfly and the 200 metre freestyle.

Moravcová continued her international winning ways at the European short-course swimming championships in Valencia, Spain December 16-17, where she took home four medals - a bronze and three golds - assuring her place among the world's swimming elite.

Slovakia's other Olympic medals were won by the nation's kayakers. The twin brothers Pavol and Peter Hochschorner, 21, competing in white water doubles-kayaking, won the country's only gold this year and the second in its history. Michal Martikán (21), who won the nation's first ever gold in Atlanta, secured the silver in singles kayaking, while compatriot Juraj Minčík (23) took the bronze in the same event.

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