Speed skater Martina Sáblíková, back in form, takes bronze at World Cup in Japan; aerobatic pilot Martin Šonka wins RedBull Air Race to become world champion; Czechs and Slovaks battle for group stage second in UEFA Nations League
Three-time Olympic champion speed skater Martina Sáblíková was on the podium for the first time in the new season. At the World Cup in Obihiro, Japan, she took bronze in the 3,000 metre event after a disappointing 13th place finish in the 1,500 metre contest.
Sáblíková, a long-distance specialist, has suffered from back problems over the past year making it difficult for her to completely stretch her legs. She did not compete in the European Speed Skating Championships in January as she underwent a series of painkilling injections.
Šonka was among the favourites to win, but as he entered the final leg the points spread meant any one of three pilots could take the World Championship title.
The former Czech Air Force fighter pilot has been flying the Red Bull Air Race for five seasons, and placed second in 2017.
As a soldier Šonka, now 40, he flew JAS-39 Gripen supersonic jet fighters and was a member of the Czech Air Force display team.
They next face Belgium away on Wednesday. Eventually, the eight group winners and six best second-placed teams will join hosts Latvia and Serbia at in the final round.
The Czechs are the home team, with the match being held the Eden Stadium in Prague. They have won six of their 11 meetings, the Slovaks have won 3, and 2 ended in draws – both times at matches held in Slovakia. The goal difference is 23–11 in the Czechs’ favour.
Monday’s match will be the Czech team’s fourth under coach Jaroslav Šilhavý. The bigger prize is to stay in League B and thus benefit from a more favourable position before the draw for the Euro 2020 qualifying phase.