Sport plays an important role in Slovak culture. Although Slovakia is a small country, it is successful in many sports. So what are the most popular sports in Slovakia?
The most popular sports in Slovakia are ice hockey, football (soccer), cycling, tennis, ski sports like biathlon and alpine skiing, ball hockey, and canoe slalom. These are the most widespread sports in Slovakia or those in which Slovakia has achieved the most significant achievements.
And do you why ice hockey is the most popular? Or why are the others? I will tell why in this post so continue reading.
Ice Hockey – The Most Popular Sport in Slovakia
Are you suprised? Yes, it is true.
Ice hockey is the most popular sport in Slovakia for decades. The main reason is that it has a long history in our country and Slovakia has achieved the greatest success in this sport since its independence in 1993.
But this sport was also very popular before our independence. Together with the Czech Republic, we were part of Czechoslovakia and our national team was one of the most successful teams in ice hockey history.
During the history of Czechoslovak hockey, our team managed to win 30 medals (6 gold, 10 silver, and 14 bronze) at the Ice Hockey World Championships and 8 medals (4 silver and 4 bronze) at the Olympic Games.
Interesting fact: Ice hockey matches against the Soviet Union team in the 60s, 70s, and 80s of the last century were like “warfare” for the people in Czechoslovakia. These matches were seen as one of the few ways to “beat” communism.
But let’s go back to Slovakia. The first ice hockey clubs in Slovakia were established in 1929 and the first year of the ice hockey Slovak league started in 1930.
Since Slovakia was part of Czechoslovakia at that time, there was also a common Czechoslovak League, which the first Slovak team got into in 1936. That club was HC Tatry.
Ice Hockey in Slovakia after 1993
After the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the Slovak Hockey League and the Slovak National Team were formed.
The first significant success was achieved by the Slovak national team in 2000, where it reached the final of the Ice Hockey Championship. By the way, in the finals we were beaten by the Czech Republic 🙂
Two years later, we have already managed to win the coveted world champion title and this victory meant a lot for the Slovak nation. I mean really a lot.
But to be honest, the last few years have not been successful for Slovak hockey and we have failed to achieve success as in the past.
A generation of hockey players around Slovak hockey legends such as Miroslav Šatan, Žigmund Pálffy or Peter Bondra have finished their hockey careers and Slovaks are now waiting for their followers. I hope they will come soon 🙂
Other Popular Slovak Sports
Yes, Slovakia is an ice hockey country but it isn’t all about ice hockey. We have also other popular sports in our country. Some of them are popular all around the world but some of them are quite unique or traditional Slovak sports. So let’s start with their introduction.
Football / Soccer
Some Slovaks could say that football is the most popular sport in Slovakia and it could be true.
Football is the most played sport in Slovakia. Every small village in Slovakia has its own football team and this sport is played by almost everyone. It is because there are a lot of grass fields in Slovakia and it isn’t an expensive sport.
Being part of the village football team meant (or still means) a lot in the eyes of other people in the village. Watching the home team’s football games has become a tradition in the villages. Every other Sunday, a large part of the villagers gathered at the football stadium and cheered for their team.
But football in Slovakia is not all about village football. Our national team also achieved some great results that Slovaks are proud of.
The greatest achievements of Slovak football in the period of its independence are the advancement to the round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the advancement to the round of 16 at the European Championships in 2016.
Cycling became popular in Slovakia thanks to our current sports hero, Peter Sagan. He is like a rock star in Slovakia nowadays.
Of course, a lot of Slovaks did cycling as their hobby for a long time before Peter Sagan. But as a professional sport, cycling became popular only after the arrival of Petr Sagan.
Did you know he already won the points classification of the Tour de France seven times? And what more, he is the first and only professional road bicycle racer who won World Road Race Championships three times in a row!
But back to “ordinary mortals”, cycling in Slovakia is not about road cycling only. Because Slovakia is covered with many mountains and forests, mountain biking and downhill biking is also very popular here.
Tennis in Slovakia is more popular as a recreational sport than a professional sport. In Slovakia you can find a large number of tennis courts, which are full of amateur players especially in summer.
But sure, we also have famous tennis players in our history. For example, Miroslav Mečíř who is the Olympic champion in tennis from Seoul, 1988 or Dominika Cibulková, who played in Australian Open final in 2014.
When you would like to play tennis in Slovakia, you should know the most common playing surface in Slovakia is clay, but there are also grass courts or courts with an artificial surface.
Interesting fact: Did you know that perhaps the most famous tennis coach of today comes from Slovakia? Yes, Marián Vajda, the coach of Novak Djokovič, comes from Slovakia. He is the most successful coach in the history of tennis in terms of Grand Slam titles, winning 17 Grand Slam trophies with Novak Djokovic.
Ski Sport – Biathlon and Alpine Skiing
Biathlon has become popular in Slovakia only in recent years, mainly due to the success achieved in this sport by Anastasia Kuzminová.
But as you probably know, Slovakia is full of beautiful mountains which are covered by snow for a long period of the year.
Although not directly biathlon, but cross-country skiing or alpine skiing belong to one of the most popular recreational sports in Slovakia. Slovak country offers a lot of amazing places where you can go skiing.
For example, the High Tatras, Low Tatras or Donovaly mountains. All these ski resorts are of a high standard and offer quality options for all types of skiing.
Like biathlon, alpine skiing in Slovakia has become popular only in recent years thanks to Petra Vlhová, who is one of the best downhill racers in the world.
First of all, do you what ball hockey is? The ball hockey is played on foot on a non-ice surface and an orange ball is used instead of a hockey puck.
This sport is not so popular as Ice hockey in the world but it is really popular in Slovakia. And do you know why? The Slovak national team is currently the best in the world and has managed to win the last four world championships in a row.
Ball hockey is mainly played by men in Slovakia. Also, it is played by former ice hockey players very often. The other reason for its popularity is that a lot of sports grounds for ball hockey were built in Slovakia in recent years.
I bet this sport is not so world-famous and perhaps even you have no idea what this sport is. The aim in this sport is to navigate a decked canoe or kayak through a course of hanging downstream or upstream gates on river rapids in the fastest time possible.
And why is canoe slalom so famous in Slovakia? There are two main and similar reasons:
- In 1996, Michal Martikán became the first athlete to win an Olympic gold medal for Slovakia since the country gained independence in 1993.
- Canoe slalom is the most successful Slovak sport because Slovak slalom canoeist managed to win already 14 Olympic medals (of which 8 gold medals).
Were you surprised that some of these sports are so popular in Slovakia? Each country has its own popular sports and I hope you found all of them interesting.
And when you come to visit Slovakia, you should try to play some of these sport or watch the match at least.
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