First Czech Winter Olympics champion Jiří Raška dies at age 70

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Jiří Raška in 2008.
Image: Stenyk.

Jiří Raška, one of former Czechoslovakia's most popular athletes in the 1960s and 1970s, died in Nový Jičín at age 70. He won the 1968 Winter Olympics normal hill ski jumping competition.

Raška was a national hero after his win and after he added another, silver medal in the large hill competition in Grenoble. Writer Ota Pavel helped popularizing him with his book The Tale of Raška. Raška also won the Four Hills Tournament and was a bronze medalist in 1972 ski flying world championships.

"I am very sorry, because Jura was not only a great athlete, but also a good friend, companion and a popular member of the Olympic club" ((cs))Czech language: ‍Je mně to velice líto, protože Jura byl nejen vynikající sportovec, ale i dobrý kamarád, parťák, oblíbený člen olympijského klubu., said fellow Olympic champion Dana Zátopková. Jura is the regional form of Raška's given name Jiří.

After ending his career in 1976, Raška worked as a coach. He opposed the communist regime, signing the 2000 Words appeal. In 2011 Czech Republic President Václav Klaus awarded him the Medal of Merit. He was named Czech Skier of the Century in 2003.

The Czech Olympic Committee chairman Milan Jirásek named Raška a legend. "He was a devoted athlete and skier for all his life" ((cs))Czech language: ‍celý život byl věrný sportu a lyžování, Jirásek said. "Until the last moment, he was an active member of the Czech club of Olympians" ((cs))Czech language: ‍Do poslední chvíle byl aktivní v Českém klubu olympioniků.