Slovakia ready to prove PyeongChang 2018 potential

Pete Stit is ready to lead his ice sledge hockey team onto the big stage. 23 Nov 2016
Slovakia won the bronze medal at the 2015 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships B-Pool in Ostersund, Sweden.

Slovakia won the bronze medal at the 2015 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships B-Pool in Ostersund, Sweden.

ⒸKarl Nilsson

The pioneer of ice sledge hockey in Slovakia Pete Stit has spoken of his hopes to reach the Qualification Tournament for what would be his team’s first Paralympic Winter Games at PyeongChang 2018.

Stit is widely credited with starting ice sledge hockey in Slovakia. Having first tried the sport in the Czech Republic, he was determined to form a national team in his home country and secured free ice time in Dolny Kubin.

He made his international debut in 2011 and was on the team that secured bronze at the World Championships B-Pool just four years later – their first major international medal.

In a few days’ time Slovakia will play their first game at the next edition of the Worlds B-pool in Tomakomai, Japan. If they finish in the top three, they will progress to the PyeongChang 2018 Qualification Tournament.

“I started in the Slovak national team from the beginning and I experienced a lot with them,” Stit said. “When we played our first official match or when we first heard the Slovak national anthem after the match, when we received the first medal, it was a historic moment for me.”

Slovakia recently played their first games of the season against Germany, Japan and hosts Czech Republic in Ostrava. They will face the latter two in Tomakomai.

They finished third overall, after losing to Japan and Czech Republic. However a win against the only A-Pool team, Germany, gave Stit a boost.

“Our team showed us that we are moving forward and we increased our confidence before the World Championships,” he said. “We played great matches against the Czech and Japan teams, but they are still against us.

“Victory against Germany was a reward for us for all the effort we put in trainings. We still remember that we lost with them during our first World Championship in 2013, 0-7.”

Stit also made reference to rivals the Czech Republic, who were relegated to the B-pool in 2015.

“The most difficult team for us will be Czech [Republic], I am a little bit mad at them that they fell out from the A group,” he said. “I would much rather play against Germany.”

Stit remains at the forefront of growing ice sledge hockey in Slovakia and has been working to improve the team.

“Finding new players is our top priority,” Stit said. “We are trying to communicate with the public, organise exhibitions during periods [in able-bodied games], we are active on social networks and we recently completed a new video about Slovak sledge hockey.

All of this, Stit hopes, will lead to Slovakia maintaining their third place in Tomakomai and rising up the rankings in the future.

“There will be several world class players, but I believe that third place is reachable for us,” he said.

The 2016 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships B-Pool will run from 28 November – 3 December. More information can be found at the Tomakomai 2016 website.