The judoka Lukáš Krpálek is this year’s athlete in the Czech Republic. After 2016 and 2019, he won the survey for the third time, which made him visibly proud.
“I am of course delighted with the award, which I really appreciate”said the 31-year-old.
As in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Krpálek became Olympic champion in judo, but this time not in the light heavyweight category for athletes up to 100 kilograms, but in the highest weight class, which is unlimited above the 100 kilogram mark. That is why the well-trained Czech also had to deal with opponents who were 30 or 40 kilos heavier than him in the Olympic tournament. In the final, however, he met the Georgian Guram Tuschischwili, who had defeated him twice before and for whom Krpálek had a lot of respect. The Czech Radio reporter was all the more emotional when he commented on the final seconds of the final fight.
Lukáš Krpálek defeated the Georgian on points and won his second Olympic victory. After the fight, he could hardly believe what he had just achieved:
“I don’t know if I will ever understand that, because it is true that I wished for this scenario immensely. My motivation was huge when I decided to switch to heavyweight. I wanted to achieve something similar to what I did in the lower weight class. But I never really believed that I actually succeeded. “
When he was named Czech Sportsman of the Year, the man from Prague was far more relaxed. Therefore, looking back on the Olympic tournament in Tokyo, he drew a noticeably more sober conclusion:
“I have to say the entire Olympic tournament in my weight class was difficult in that all the fighters were afraid of making a gross mistake. In judo, it can happen very quickly that all your dreams will burst. You can stay in the lead for the entire competition only to lose at the end due to inattention. The duels at the Olympic tournament in Tokyo were therefore mostly very cautious, including me. “
However, this did not detract from his joy about winning the national athlete’s crown again. On the contrary, shortly after the award ceremony, Krpálek let us know what he was thinking five years ago when he was the last one of the top athletes to be called on stage for the first time at the gala evening at the Hotel Hilton in Prague:
“I still remember it very well: When I received this crown for the first time in 2016, I didn’t believe at all that this honor could be repeated for me.”
Krpálek won the poll of 256 journalists with 202 points ahead of tennis player Barbora Krejčíková and another 107 points ahead of white water canoe Jiří Prskavec. That was hardly to be expected in such clarity, as Krejčíková in particular had a whole series of successes to counter. The 26-year-old won the Olympic gold medal with her congenial partner Kateřina Siniaková and the WTA Masters title in women’s doubles, and she crowned her successful year by winning the French Open in singles. Due to a cold, the Brno woman was unable to attend the award ceremony in person, but was added to the program by video. In her reaction to the second place in the survey, however, she could not hide a slight disappointment. Lukáš Krpálek did not miss this either:
“When I saw the video from Barbora how sad she reacted when she found out she hadn’t won the title, I felt queasy. This is just such a moment that I don’t like, because any of the successful athletes in our country this year would have deserved the kind of appreciation that was bestowed on me. “
Slalom canoeist Jiří Prskavec, who became Olympic champion in single kayak, is close friends with Krpálek. The 28-year-old was not only happy for the buddy, but also about his third place in the survey:
“I said to myself that if I end up in fourth or fifth place in the survey, then that would be an adequate result for our rather small sport. I really appreciate third place and see it as the cherry on the cake for my season this year. “
After Prskavec, the fourth Olympic champion from Tokyo, Jiří Lipták, also made it into the top 4. In the Czech Republic, the athletes are not selected separately for men and women in the individual classification. And even the duo Krejčíková / Siniaková was rated in this category. The women’s doubles of the two tennis players were voted on rank 5, so that ultimately all five Olympic gold medal winners landed right at the front. In the collective evaluation, the men’s basketball team was voted Team of the Year.
Individual prize winner Lukáš Krpálek finally provided another highlight of the award ceremony. Because in the course of his acceptance speech, he announced that he wanted to continue his active career for at least three years:
“Another incentive for me is to take part in the next Olympic Games in 2024. Even if I should probably be one of the older judokas by then, I will fight to qualify for Paris. And then I would try everything there to win another Olympic medal. “