SLOVAK hockey's finest.
photo: Ján Súkup
A native of Bratislava, Peter Šťastný was one of the NHL's top players in the 1980s before becoming captain, architect, spiritual leader and general manager of Slovakia's national side, which won ice hockey's world championship in a thrilling 4-3 victory over Russia in May.
Šťastný, the NHL's number-two scorer for the 1980s behind Wayne Gretzky, is one of Slovakia's most famous native sons. He has been working to raise the quality and visibility of Slovak hockey since the country's 1993 independence.
As the country closes a year that brought long-sought invitations to Nato and the EU as well as hockey and tennis titles, Šťastný stands as an example that success demands patience, hard work and determination, and that each triumph brings more difficult challenges.
Slovak honoured in recent years by The Slovak Spectator include Slovakia's point man on EU integration Ján Figeľ, corruption-busting judge Jana Dubovcová, ethnic Hungarian Party leader Béla Bugár, Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš, gay-rights activist Peter Králik and anticorruption campaigner Emília Sičáková.
See PROFILE: Long, hard road to gold