Ski jumping champ Jiri Raska dies

PRAGUE — Jiri Raska, the 1968 Olympic ski jumping champion who was named the best Czech skier of the 20th century, died Friday. He was 70.

Hana Szotkowska, a spokeswoman for Novy Jicin Hospital, says Raska died there in the eastern town of Novy Jicin. The cause of death was not given.

Raska became the first Czech to win gold at a Winter Olympics when he won off the middle hill in Grenoble, France. He also won a silver medal at the same Olympics on the large hill.

“It’s a great loss for Czech sport,” Czech Olympic Committee chairman Milan Jirasek said. “(Raska) was a legend.”

In 1969, Raska set the world record in ski jumping at 164 meters at the flying hill in Planica, then Yugoslavia. He also won the prestigious Four Hill Tour in 1971.

Among his other successes, Raska claimed second place at the 1970 world championships, and the bronze at the inaugural ski flying worlds in 1972.

After his retirement in 1976, he continued as a coach and was in charge of the men’s and junior national team. He was active as a ski official at his hometown Czech Ski Association and the club of Czech Olympians.

In October, he was awarded a top state decoration, the Medal of Merit, by President Vaclav Klaus. He then complained about heart problems after having triple bypass surgery.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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