So close, yet so far for Kreuziger
Emmons narrowly misses medal; Czech tennis team struggles
Posted: August 1, 2012
The men's road race kicked off the 2012 Olympics as thousands of fans lined the Mall in central London.
Czech cyclist Roman Kreuziger came within touching distance of a medal in the men's Olympic road race July 28 after finishing in 15th place, just eight seconds behind eventual winner Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan.
However, the 26-year-old Kreuziger has been forced to deny claims he assisted Astana teammate Vinokourov instead of racing for his country.
Kreuziger spent the first half of the 250-kilometer route tucked up in the peloton before joining a second breakaway group spearheaded by Belgium's Philippe Gilbert.
They quickly caught 12 riders who had escaped early in the race, as the pack toiled away on nine grueling climbs of Surrey's Box Hill, to the south of London.
Following a solo attack by Gilbert which galvanized the chasers, Kreuziger established himself in a strong group of 32 ahead of the long run-in to the finish line. But they were all left standing when Rigoberto Urán attacked with 10 kilometers to go.
Surprisingly, only Vinokourov followed the Colombian, and while the two men battled it out for the gold and silver medals, Kreuziger stayed back in the hunt for bronze. It was not to be, though, as Alexander Kristoff of Norway edged their bunch sprint.
Like pre-race favorite Mark Cavendish, whose Team GB struggled to keep pace with the breakaways, all-rounder Kreuziger will have to wait another four years for his shot at Olympic glory.
"We had a chance, but they [Vinokourov and Urán] caught us napping," Kreuziger said afterward. "Vino attacked when everyone else had tired legs. I congratulated him at the end."
But since the race, a storm has brewed over Kreuziger's tactics in the closing stages. Various Czech media outlets, notably TV Nova, have accused him of purposely leaving Vinokourov unchallenged.
The rider called this "total bullshit," saying on his personal website, "I didn't imagine their breakaway would succeed. I'm not ashamed of my performance. I have a clear conscience."
Emmons off target
Kateřina Emmons failed in her bid to win back-to-back Olympic titles when she came an agonizing fourth place in the women's 10-meter air rifle July 28.
Emmons was seeking to defend the crown she had won in Beijing four years earlier and was considered a strong contender for a repeat success at London's Royal Artillery Barracks.
But this time around it was Yi Siling who had the honor of getting her hands on the first gold medal of the games.
The Chinese shooter edged Poland's Sylwia Bogacka in a pulsating duel, taking a decisive lead with two attempts remaining. Yi's compatriot Yu Dan claimed the bronze.
Having barely qualified for the final via a shoot-off, Emmons eventually found her range by racking up 103.3 points from her last 10 shots. That gave the 28-year-old a score of 500.3, 2.6 points behind Yi and 1.2 off third place.
After a bronze medal in Athens and the gold in Beijing, Emmons was left to reflect on what might have been.
"I'm feeling slightly disappointed, but only because of my very last shot," she said. "Scoring a 9 is never good. But it wouldn't have helped me anyway."
"I fought like a lion, so I can be pleased with that. Later it will sink in more."
Emmons, whose husband, Matt, is also competing in London, will have the chance to stake her claim for another medal in the 50-meter rifle three positions Aug. 4, an event in which she bagged silver four years ago.
At Wimbledon, Czech players disappoint
Men's sixth seed Tomáš Berdych was among a host of Czech tennis players to fall in the first round of the singles competition at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club.
Returning to the scene of his Championships disaster, Berdych's SW19 woes continued July 28 as he was upset by the unheralded Steve Darcis of Belgium 6-4 6-4.
The world No. 7, who crashed out to Ernests Gulbis in his Wimbledon opener six weeks ago, had been expected to come up against Britain's Andy Murray in the quarterfinals.
Berdych finished as Wimbledon runner-up in 2010, losing to Rafael Nadal. He was understandably keen to forget this summer.
"It's hard to put it into words," Berdych said. "What I've shown on grass this year … I need to put these performances to the back of my mind and never think of them again."
Meanwhile, the last remaining Czech male hope, Radek Štěpánek, was beaten in straight sets by the Russian Nikolay Davydenko July 30, having had to endure a six-hour rain delay the day before.
In the women's draw, Lucie Šafářová, Petra Cetkovská and Klara Zakopalová all tumbled at the first hurdle. World No. 23 Šafářová could not cope with the vociferous home support for opponent Laura Robson as she went down to the Brit 7-6 6-4.
As of press time, only Petra Kvitová was left to fly the flag for the Czech Republic. The sixth seed, who has been taken to three sets in both her matches so far, will meet Flavia Pennetta from Italy in the third round August 1.
Jonathan Crane can be reached at