Jana Liptakova's interview with Martina Moravcova brought me strong feelings of nostalgia. On the eve of the 1996 Atlanta Games, we at The Slovak Spectator set out to identify the athletes most likely to win independent Slovakia's first Olympic medals. I had the privilege of interviewing our four choices.
Two of our selections did win medals in Atlanta. Rifleman Jozef Gonci's bronze was Slovakia's historic first medal of any kind.
Canoeist Michal Martikan -- only 17 at the time -- won the country's first gold. Both men went on to win further medals at subsequent Olympics and will try to add to their haul in Beijing. Tennis star Karina Habsudova, fresh off a '96 French Open quarterfinals run, never did win Olympic hardware but earned $1.8 million in prize money over an 11-year professional career.
Of the four athletes we profiled, none combined athletic performance with personal humility and grace the way Martina Moravcova did. She did not medal in Atlanta, but as your recent article highlighted, Moravcova has won a mind-boggling 67 medals at the Olympics (including
2 silvers at Sydney 2000), world and European championships combined.
The sense I get from your interview is that Moravcova -- now 32 -- is still as down-to-earth as she was when I interviewed her and her mother Darina 12 years ago. Even though Moravcova is not likely to reach the podium in Beijing, Slovakia could not ask for a better ambassador than the woman who will be swimming in her 5th Olympics next month.
Rick Zedník Brussels, Belgium
4. Aug 2008 at 0:00 | Rick Zedník