Vladimir Miko, mainstay of Czechoslovakian success

Vladimir Miko (1943 -2018), one of Europe’s best (Photo: ITTF)

by Ian Marshall, Editor

It is with great sadness that the recent death of Vladimir Miko is announced; he was 74 years old.

Born on Monday 22nd March 1943 in Krupina in the country now known as Slovakia; Vladimir Miko was a vital member of the Czechoslovakian team throughout the 1960s.

He started playing table tennis in 1951 at STO Tatran Krupina, before in 1957 moving to Sparta Prague, where he was coached by established internationals Ladislav Stipek and Ludvik Vyhnanovsky.

In 1959 he joined the national team, competing in seven World Championships, an event in those days held on a biennial basis. Notably in 1967 in Stockholm he reached the quarter-finalsof the men’s singles event and in harness with his erstwhile partner, Jaroslav Stanek, was a men’s doubles bronze medallist.

Additionally he played in five European Championships, his most successful being in 1964 in Malmö and two years later in London. In Malmö, he won the Men’s Doubles, as always partnering Jaroslav Stanek, whilst also being the Mixed Doubles runner up with Marta Luzova.

Two years later in England’s capital city he reached the final of the Men’s Singles event, losing to Sweden’s Kjell Johansson. Earlier he had won the Mixed Doubles title partnering Marta Luzova and was the Men’s Doubles runner up with Jaroslav Stanek.

In international open tournaments he enjoyed success after success, reaching no.9 on the Men’s World Rankings in 1967; his international career ending in 1970. In 1971, he assumed the role of Luxembourg national coach, a position he held until 1973, before becoming the Men’s Team national coach for Czechoslovakia until1990.

Fortunately, it was my privilege to watch him play, in fact to compete in the same competition.

Organised by the late Derek Tyler and always held at the White Rock Pavilion in Hastings, a seaside town which faces the English channel; in October 1967 the Sussex Open attracted entries from the Czech Republic. Notably Marta Luzova played as did Ivan Andreadis, Jaroslav Stanek and Vladimir Miko. It was and remains to this day one of the strongest in terms of entry at an open tournament staged in England; so strong that England internationals Stuart Gibbs and Alan Hydes played each other in the first round of the Men’s Singles event.

Marta Luzova experienced defeat in the women’s singles final at the hands of England’s Mary Wright; Ivan Andreadis beat Ron Etheridge in the Veteran Singles final. Meanwhile, Vladimir Miko won the mixed doubles partnering Marta Luzova and with Jaroslav Stanek secured men’s doubles gold, before the two faced each other in the men’s singles final.

En route to the final, Vladimir Miko was never troubled; in fact he gained a semi-final walk-over against England’s Chester Barnes who, when assisting a colleague change the wheel of a car, the jack supporting the vehicle slipped, number plate fell and cut his leg.

Throughout, Vladimir Miko had caught my attention; it was the way he received service when the ball was played short to his forehand. Keeping the forearm horizontal, the racket moved around the ball to produce a mixture of sidespin and top spin.

However, in the final it caused Jaroslav Stanek, who had beaten Belgium’s Norbert Van der Walle in the semi-finals, no problems whatsoever. Power prevailed against artistry, Jaroslav Stanek won in straight games.

Defeat for Vladimir Miko but above all, he was the player to impress; the one I watched intently, thanks for the memory, a wonderful memory, treasured. Vladimir Miko, rest in peace.