HOW DID CZECHOSLOVAKIA'S SPLIT AFFECT SLOVAK OLYMPIANS?

It means more opportunities

o have our own team at the Olympics is a grand occasion. It is not easy to describe the feeling, but to get this chance, to see the sportsmen and women from our little country marching with all those from the nations of the world in the Olympic stadium is fantastic. All my life I hoped there would be a team carrying our independent flag, and I am happy to have lived to see it. I probably do not fully appreciate it yet. Sports help to create a country's image. The very presentation of those young people marching.... I think those people present at the stadium and the millions in front of TV sets will see that somewhere in central Europe, under the Tatra mountains, there is a country that has adept, young people who have been able to make it.


"All my life I hoped there would be a team carrying our independent flag and I am happy to have lived to see it. I probably do not fully appreciate it yet."

Baltazár Dubeň




o have our own team at the Olympics is a grand occasion. It is not easy to describe the feeling, but to get this chance, to see the sportsmen and women from our little country marching with all those from the nations of the world in the Olympic stadium is fantastic.

All my life I hoped there would be a team carrying our independent flag, and I am happy to have lived to see it. I probably do not fully appreciate it yet.

Sports help to create a country's image. The very presentation of those young people marching.... I think those people present at the stadium and the millions in front of TV sets will see that somewhere in central Europe, under the Tatra mountains, there is a country that has adept, young people who have been able to make it. They have their own flag and they are there representing their country.

There are countries with one, two or three athletes. Thank God we have more, and it is a credit to their work and achievement that they have earned a spot on the Olympic team. But I think that having been given the opportunity to line up under their flag also means a commitment.

During the days of our common state with the Czech Republic, one did not care about the athletes' birth places, one's eyes teared up just listening to the anthem. I recall being equally touched by anyone's victory, Czech or Slovak. But logically, there were always more Czech athletes at the Olympics than Slovaks.

So for Slovak sportsmen and women, it is better to have an independent team. Many more of them get a chance to compete at the Olympics. When competing with the Czechs, the odds were lower that they would qualify for the team. Back then, sometimes the best Slovaks were not able to beat the Czechs. It could have been a matter of training or attitude.

I miss sharing the physical education experience with Czech coaches. This makes me sad. I also miss the opportunity our athletes had to directly test their skills against the Czechs. Athletes may excel in their home environment, but they learn the truth about themselves only when they compete against the best from other places.

Only when competing at international championships, do those who are best at home realize, "I should have worked harder, I would have done much better." So the opportunity to compete with the Czechs was useful. We might have been from the same state, we might have been akin mentality, but we were different.

I'm happy to see Czech teams winning, I wish them all the best. I think sports also involve luck, but luck comes especially to those who are good - and the Czechs are good. But still it is good for Slovaks to have our own Olympic team. We have considerably more athletes competing and, who knows, maybe someone who is not best at home will bring us the biggest surprise.

And if the stars are aligned correctly and someone wins Olympic gold, it may prove extremely motivational for our youth and other Slovak athletes. I think that may awaken the desire in many, which would eventually enlarge the talent pool.

Baltazár Dubeň is the chairman of the Slovak Sports Association, an unbrella organization that has 500,000 members.

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