A friend and an idol: How Cholevova and the Czech Republic follow in MVP Jerabkova’s footsteps

23 Jun. 2022

A friend and an idol: How Cholevova and the Czech Republic follow in MVP Jerabkova’s footsteps

With a 33:16 win against Lithuania in their maiden game at the 2022 IHF Women’s Junior World Championship, the Czech Republic failed to beat their record for the largest win in the competition by only three goals, with the 39:19 win against Kazakhstan at Croatia 2014 still staying firm for now.

However, things are slowly changing for the better for the Czech team, who qualified for the final tournament only for the third time in the past seven editions of the women’s junior flagship event.

With the emphasis being now put firmly on developing young players and ushering in new talent, the Czech Republic are slowly reaping what they had previously sown, as everybody is beginning to take notice of the diamonds in the rough available.

At the highest level, two Czech players, right wing Jana Knedlikova and left back Marketa Jerabkova, have won the EHF Champions League Women with Vipers Kristiansand. Jerabkova, one of the top players on her position at senior level, was also named the MVP of the EHF FINAL4 that took place in Budapest, with her 21-goal tally amassed in two games being key in lifting Vipers seal the trophy.

In a country that is not used to boast such performances in handball, that performance will surely rub on the younger players, who are aspiring to reach the pinnacle of the pyramid. And who could be better suited to follow in Jerabkova’s footsteps than a fellow back, Charlotte Cholevova.

One of the brightest talents in the Czech Republic side, Cholevova has already shown off her talent during the Women’s 19 EHF EURO 2021, which also took place in Slovenia last summer, scoring 55 goals on her way to the second place in the top scorer list.

She also threw off the 2022 IHF Women’s Junior World Championship in style, becoming the Czech Republic’s top scorer in Wednesday’s win against Lithuania, putting nine goals past the Baltic side and sitting fourth in the top scorer list after the first 16 matches of the competition.

“It is a good feeling to start off with such a great win and to function well as a team. But the tournament is long, we need to be better and better in the next matches, as we will be facing stronger teams. We need to brush off some mistakes, because we will not come out as winners in every match,” says Cholevova.

She was already touted to be one of the top players in this generation, which finished 10th at the Women’s 19 EHF EURO 2021, with wins over Norway and Montenegro, teams that, at least on paper, should be higher on the pecking list.

Overachieving might be a term which is not suited for this current Czech Republic team, but they surely sprung a surprise or two last year and they are aiming to do the same in the next two matches, especially the one against Romania, in the last match of Group E at Slovenia 2022.

And Cholevova, who has already made her debut for the senior team and was a member of the side who made the main round at the 2021 IHF Women’s World Championship in Spain knows why she is improving on a day-by-day basis.

It has something to do with Jerabkova, as the widely regarded consensus is that the left back is a star in the making. Both players have started their career at the most decorated Czech club team, DHK Banik Most, who won the title in the last eight seasons in a row.

Jerabkova spent four years at Most, between 2014 and 2018, before moving to Hungary, to join ERD NK. Cholevova, who is still only 19 years old, has been plying her trade for the last three seasons in the same club, scoring over 200 goals in the MOL Liga, where teams from the Czech Republic and Slovakia are playing.

“I am very lucky to know Marketa personally, to have played together for the senior national team and to consider her a friend. She is a huge player, an amazing person and an inspiration for all the Czech players.”

“She is my friend and my idol, I must admit, and I learnt so much from her and I am very grateful about it. She surely inspires a lot of players from the Czech Republic, she proved that we can be very good and I owe her a lot,” smiles Cholevova.

But right now, all the thoughts from the Czech junior side go towards the next matches at Slovenia 2022. The team never broke into the top 10 at the IHF Women’s Junior World Championship before, with their best result being the 11th place, achieved at Brazil 1995 and Croatia 2014.

Goalkeeper Sarka Spurna had an amazing outing against Lithuania, her 10 saves, with a saving efficiency of 45.4% lifting her to be named the Player of the Match. It just proved that the Czech Republic are doing things right in all compartments and could be a team to watch in the future.

“We just want to win games here, so we need to focus and become better. If I was named the Player of the Match, it was surely because of my teammates, because they did the hard work which enabled me to save shots,” concludes Spurna.

Such a statement will always be taken with a pinch of salt, but both Spurna and Cholevova were definitely believing what they were saying. They took a page from what other players did before them, especially Jerabkova, who broke through in emphatic fashion in her first season with Vipers Kristiansand, winning all the trophies available.

Whether this current Czech Republic women’s junior team will provide new stars for the future, it is still to be seen. But with such amazing models, captain Cholevova and her teammates could ensure the future of the Czech handball.

Read Marketa Jerabkova's "This is me" story on eurohandball.com.