Slovenia is a land of supreme athletes. Given its small population, it is surprising that Slovenian competitors have been top performers in so many fields. According to various statistics, Slovenia is one of the most successful countries in terms of sporting achievements per head. Slovenes are particularly notable for their achievements and exploits in extreme sports. Slovenia is hosting the European Basketball Championship in 2013.
Achievements at major competitions
At the world’s most prestigious sporting contest, the Olympics, Slovenian competitors have won 73 medals. The harvest of medals at various world championships is significantly larger, at around 300.
Slovenian competitors are famous for their triumphs in Alpine skiing, ski jumping, cross-country skiing, gymnastics, rowing, whitewater kayaking and athletics. In terms of team sports it is worth highlighting the fact that Slovenia's footballers have twice qualified for the World Cup finals: the 2002 FIFA World Cup in South Korea and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The handball and basketball teams have also achieved many successes.
One of the legends of Slovenian sport is the gymnast Leon Štukelj
, who took six medals, including two golds, at the Olympics alone. In the twenties and thirties he was world champion three times.
His success was continued by Miro Cerar
, who won two golds at the Olympics in the late fifties and the sixties.
For a number of years the new wave of Slovenian gymnastics has consisted of Aljaž Pegan
and Mitja Petkovšek
, who were world champions at the high bar and the parallel bars respectively.
In the last 20 years Slovenian competitors have achieved their greatest successes in Alpine skiing, which can be considered the national sport. Gold medals in world cup, world championship and Olympic events have been won in men’s races by Bojan Križaj, Rok Petrovič, Boris Strel, Jure Franko, Jure Košir and Matjaž Vrhovnik
and in women’s races by Mateja Svet, Katja Koren, Alenka Dovžan, Nataša Bokal, Urška Hrovat, Špela Pretnar and Tina Maze
Slovenia’s ski jumpers have also reaped many successes. Franci Petek
was world champion in the early nineties, while Primož Peterka
won the world cup in 1996/7 and 1997/8. Rok Benkovič
became world champion in 2005.
Another, less direct sporting achievement is the ski jump at Planica, which hosts a world cup event every year. The jump, built by the Gorišek brothers
, is a triumph of construction, and has been the site of most world records.
Great success has also been enjoyed in recent seasons by cross-country skier Petra Majdič
, who has several world cup victories to her name.
Two of the most successful Slovenian competitors of all time are the rowers Iztok Čop
and Luka Špik
, who took gold in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and silver in the Athens Games in 2004 in the double sculls. They have been world champions several times. The fours have also brought Slovenia medals at the Olympics and at world championships.
The most recent major success for Slovenian athletics was Primož Kozmus
‘s gold medal in the hammer. Olympic medals have also been won by runners Brigita Bukovec
and Jolanda Čeplak
, who is the 800 m world record holder.
Other Olympic medals have been won by sailor Vasilij Žbogar
, swimmer Sara Isakovič
, judo fighters Lucija Polavder
and Urška Žolnir
, canoeist Andraž Vehovar
and shooter Rajmond Debevec
The most notable of Slovenia’s achievements in team sports were perhaps the football team’s qualifications for the European Championships in 2000 and the World Cups in 2002 and 2010.
Slovenia has one of the world’s highest participation rates in extreme sports
, notable achievements being recorded in mountaineering and climbing in the Himalayas.
Numerous Slovenian mountaineers have conquered the world’s highest peaks in the last 30 years. Tomaž Humar
, who died in 2009, was famous for his extreme exploits in climbing several Himalayan peaks solo. Davo Karničar
was the first person to ski down from the top of Mt Everest. The ultramarathon biker Jure Robič
has won the RAAM, the most demanding bike race of them all, several times. The ultramarathon swimmer Martin Strel
was the first person to swim the Mississippi, the Amazon and the Yangtze. Irena Avbelj
has won numerous skydiving competitions.