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Winning disciplines

Slovenian athletes are very successful at international level. The number of medals won at the international level is considerable for a nation with barely two million citizens. So far, Slovenian sportsmen have won 14 Olympic medals, 287 World Championship medals and 323 European Championship medals. One of their most successful events was the Olympic Games in Sydney, where they won two gold medals, putting Slovenia in fifth place according to the number of medals won per country with regard to population. Slovenes rank among the best in skiing, athletics, ski jumping, gymnastics, rowing and white-water canoeing.

Slovenian clubs competing in team sports have also achieved international recognition. National teams have successfully competed in basketball, volleyball, handball and football. The Slovenian football team qualified for the European Championship in 2000 and for the 2002 World Cup. The Slovenian handball team won the silver medal at the 2004 European Championship in Ljubljana.

Mountaineering and climbing have a long tradition in Slovenia. They require great athletic ability and tests human endurance. It is not surprising that Slovenian mountaineers were among the first to ascend some of the most difficult routes in the Himalayas and other mountain ranges. Hiking is also one of the most popular forms of recreation.

Gymnastics

The first important results of Slovenian athletes at major competitions were achieved in gymnastics. The greatest Slovenian sporting legend of all time is Leon Štukelj, with whom the success story of Slovenian sports began. Between 1922 and 1936 he won eight gold, four silver, and five bronze medals in three Olympic Games, and three world championship titles. After the Second World War, the reputation of Slovenian gymnastics was carried forward by Miro Cerar, who won two gold and one bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and Mexico. He was also among the best at the world championships in Moscow in 1958, Prague in 1962, Dortmund in 1966 and Ljubljana in 1970. Recently, the gymnasts Aljaž Pegan and Mitja Petkovšek have won international recognition, and both became world champions in 2005 in Australia - Aljaž Pegan on the high bar and Mitja Petkovšek on the parallel bars. Mitja Petkovšek is also the current world champion, while Aljaž Pegan is the first runner up.

Winter Sports

In Slovenia, skiing is considered to be the national sport. In the last twenty years, it has been skiers who have achieved the best results. Ever since Bojan Križaj won 4th place in the giant slalom at the Olympic Games in Lake Placid in 1980, Boris Strel, Jure Franko, Mateja Svet, Jure Košir, Katja Koren, Alenka Dovžan, Nataša Bokal, Urška Hrovat and Špela Pretnar have all stood on winning podiums at major competitions (world cups, world championships and the Olympics).

Slovenian ski jumpers are also very successful. Matjaž Debelak won a bronze medal on the 90-metre ski jump at the Olympics in Calgary. The second medal in Calgary went to the Slovene ski jumping team. In 1991 Franci Petek became the world champion on the 90-metre ski jump in Predazzo, and Primož Peterka won the World Cup in the 1996/1997 and 1997/1998 seasons. At the 2005 Nordic Ski World Championship in Oberstdorf, Germany, the 18-year-old Rok Benkovič won his first gold medal and World Championship title.

In the past few seasons, cross-country skier Petra Majdič has delighted her fans with a string of great performances. She also won the Slovenian Athlete of the Year 2006 Award. Although she missed a medal at the Turin Winter Olympics by a hair, she compensated for that as she won a silver medal at the latest World Championship.

In addition to Slovenian athletes, we must also mention the excellent Slovenian organisers of world competitions. The Vitranc Cup in Kranjska gora and the Zlata Lisica Cup on the Pohorje are official World Cup skiing competitions. Every year, the final event of the ski-jumping World Cup takes place at Planica, on the largest natural ski-jump in the world.

Rowing

In the ’eighties and ’nineties, Slovenian scullers won medals at world championships and Olympic Games. At the Olympic Games in Seoul, the bronze medal for the coxless double scull was won by Sadik Mujkić and Bojan Prešeren. Three years later, Iztok Čop and Denis Žvegelj won a silver medal at the world championship in Vienna, and a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. The same year, a bronze medal for the coxless four was won by Sadik Mujkić, Milan Janša, Janez Klemenčič and Sašo Mirjanič.

Iztok Čop won a further three medals at the world championships. In Indianapolis in 1994, he won a bronze in the single sculls; a year later he won at the world championship in Tampere; and in 1999 at St. Catherine’s, he became the world champion in the double scull, together with Luka Špik. Iztok Čop and Luka Špik remain unbeatable in the double sculls and are current world champions.

Other Sports

The 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta were also very successful for Slovenian athletes. Track and field athlete Brigita Bukovec missed gold by just one hundredth of a second in the 100 metres hurdles. Also successful was Andraž Vehovar, with a silver medal in white-water canoeing (K-1 slalom). Three years later, Gregor Cankar was among the best athletes at the world championship in Seville, taking bronze in the long jump.
Slovenes were also delighted at the performances of the ‘golden’ national football team between the years 1998 and 2002, with Srečko Katanec as coach. Our footballers surprised everyone by qualifying for the 2000 European Championship in the Netherlands and Belgium, and for the 2002 World Championship in Korea and Japan.

At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Slovenian athletes won 4 Olympic medals - one silver and three bronze: rowers Iztok Čop and Luka Špik, the gold medallists from Sydney, won a silver medal in the men’s double sculls; the track and field athlete Jolanda Čeplak, the world indoor record holder in the women’s 800 metres, won a bronze medal; Urška Žolnir won a bronze medal in judo in the under 63kg category; and Vasilij Žbogar, the 2003 European champion, won a bronze medal in the laser sailing competition.


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