Without a doubt, Lukus Bauer will be the hometown favorite when the 2009 Ski World Championships begin in February in Liberec, Czech Republic.
But he is not alone. Last week in Meraker, Norway, his rising compatriot co-star showed how well summer training has gone: U23 World Champion Martin Jaks put the Norwegians in place on their home turf in the classic race of the Tour de Trondelag.
Despite the retirement of perhaps the most famous Czech name in Nordic skiing, Katerina Neumonnova, now president of the WC Organization, there is still plenty of hope for Czech medals on home turf next winter.
â€œI definitely feel the pressure from the media after last season, but I’m prepared for it. My biggest chance is probably in the 15k classic and that’s where I’ll have the greatest expectations for gold,â€ says Bauer, who dominated the distance races on the World Cup all of last season. He won the overall WC Title and was also the winner of the 2nd Annual Tour de Ski.
â€œAs far as I’m concerned, all the races except for the sprints are possibilities for me to medal.â€
Bauer has spent a great deal of time on the road this summer training. â€œI’ve been in Italy, and now in Norway. After this week I’ll be in Torsby (Sweden) training in the ski tunnel for two weeks before traveling home. My son is at home with his grandmother,â€ explains Bauer, who’s wife Katerina has been traveling with him.
Bauer has yet to win a World Championships medal. The 30 year old from Bozi, Czech Republic, right on the German border, took the silver in the 15k classic the 2006 Olympics in Torino. This puts even greater pressure on Bauer to perform in Liberec.
â€œTraining has gone well and I’m quite optimistic,â€ says the Czech, who despite all the publicity, is certainly not alone when it comes to medal chances for the host nation.
Don’t forget Jaks:
In Bauer’s shadow, Martin Jaks has grown as a dark house medal candidate in Liberec. He won the 15k classic at the U23 Championships in Italy last winter, and has had many top results in the World Cup, among which was a third place finish in the Prologue at the World Cup Finals in Italy’s St. Caterina.
â€œThere are many skiers who can fight for medals at the World Championships,â€ said Jaks modestly. He has shown in many cases that he is ascending quickly to the top of the world’s ski elite. In last year’s Tour de Ski he finished an impressive 11th overall and was a member of the relay team that took a surprise victory in the Davos World Cup in December.
Farther in the shadows:
Along with Bauer and Jaks, the Czechs certainly have other high hopes for February’s competitions. The veteran Martin Koukal is certainly not to be counted out. He won the sprint showdown in Davos that gave the Czech team won of their first relay golds, and he will certainly be a threat on his own soil. Koukal has moved to Liberec to prepare for the World Championships, and is a contender in everything from the sprint to the 50k. Don’t forget he won won gold in the 50k at the Val di Fiemme World Championships in 2003.
A Czech sprint relay team has medaled in both of the last two World Championships as well. Dusan Kozisek and Milan Sperl were on the podium in Sapporo 2007, and Koukal and Kozisek did the same in Oberstdorf in 2005. Besides these heavy hitters the team includes veteran Jiri Magal and the promising young Alex Razym. There is absolutely no reason not to expect big things from the Czech Republic on their home territory in the 2009 World Championships in Liberec.