An experienced player, a devoted team captain and a long-time national team player. One of the key players of Vitkovice, one of the best floorball teams in the Czech Republic, remembers the junior world championship from 2003 when he helped the Czech Republic to bronze medals. “A huge drama, an unbelievable rush of emotions and euphoria after the last whistle of the referee,” Tomas Sladky describes the joy of the final third place.
Seventeen years ago, you won the first-ever medal for the Czech Republic. Do you think it was a key moment or a turning point for floorball in the Czech Republic?
Beautiful memories … The group was great, we were hungry for success and we worked our asses off just to grab the medal. If it wasn’t a milestone for Czech floorball, then it was one at least for me.
Back then, you scored twelve goals against the Danes in the group stage and a day later you fought the Swedes. The score was very close for a long time, you even managed to reduce the score to one goal difference before the end of the second period. But then the Swedes scored six more times and the hope for a sensational result was gone. Do you remember this match?
Somewhere in the archives, there is a short TV medallion from the whole championship, match highlights, short interviews… I would love to see it again. We didn’t play much of those international matches then, I remember only the friendly matches with Switzerland, otherwise, we didn’t have a comparison, so we went to every match head-on. You must always give extraordinary performance against the Swedes to succeed. The score was 3: 4, but the game is played until the end, so the Scandinavians taught us a lesson.
Can you compare the then level of Swedish youth floorball with the level they are at now?
It is not possible to compare only the level of Swedish floorball… Technically, tactically and also in terms of speed, floorball has moved enormously in those seventeen years, it has developed into today’s modern form. Thanks to this development, players are forced to approach the game differently in all aspects – fitness, mental and so on. Figuratively and exaggeratedly, I would like to point out that the Swedes then played in sleeveless jerseys. And it was a real hoo-ha.
Your last group match was also relatively balanced, you couldn’t bounce off the Latvians for a long time on a difference that would calm you down. How relieved were you when Marek Deutsch scored to make it 5:2 with eleven minutes left in the game?
It was a fight to advance to the semifinals, so the nerves worked a bit. But we were played better, I remember the great relief, especially after the match. We were still in the tournament and we kept the chance to win a medal. Marek is a shooter from the Lord God, just another important part of our bronze party.
The Finns then stood in your way to the final. You scored once, the golden hope was dashed. What was going on in the locker room when it was clear that you would play “only” for bronze?
The match didn’t work out for us, but we didn’t make a fuss about it. The Finns performed a fast game, which we were not used to from the Czech environment. Right after the semifinals, we started to focus on the last match. The goal was clear.
And it worked out, you defeated the Swiss in the battle for bronze. The first Czech medal, also at your home tournament.
Huge drama, an unbelievable rush of emotions and euphoria after the last whistle of the referee. I wish I had better memory and remembered more details from the tournament. Every team’s success is great, especially in that you can experience it to the fullest with teammates, friends and everyone who participated in it. The celebrations were a success and some memories remained, that’s the main thing!
Were you surprised that the Finns eventually took the gold?
The final against the Swedes was even, as always in their clashes. I probably wished the Finns more, the Swedes finally got the first slap that every team should ever get.
The Finns are now on the rise, in the adult category they are even reigning world champions. Do you think they have a chance to replace Sweden on the floorball throne over the years?
This Scandinavian chase will never end, and that’s good. Since the beginnings of floorball, both nations have held a “pole position”.
Next year, the Junior World Championships are returning to the Czech Republic, what are the chances for the home team in Brno?
For all the nominees, it will be the peak of their career so far, and it was the same for us then. The brand new team will be allowed to defend the title of world champion and the home environment will add something to their standard performance, which I like to call “lauf”. This combination cannot result in aiming for less than gold.