Slovenian Sport Stories and Super-Heroes

Slovenia is a land of active people and sporting superheroes who push their sports to the limit all around the world. Just think about the wonder boy, Luka Dončić, the youngest NBA star to play in the starting line-up at the NBA All-Star Game since LeBron James in 2005. Or remember the queen of the slopes, Tina Maze, who broke the legendary Hermann Maier’s record in 2013 and passed the magic 2,000 points mark in the World Cup. How is it possible that so many top athletes and born winners can be found in a nation of only two million citizens? Vigorous exercise is one of the most important activities for people living between the Alps and the Mediterranean, and it is difficult to find a Slovenian without trainers or hiking boots ready to venture up a nearby hill. All towns are encircled by green forests and surrounded by recreational trails. In the evening, you would not recognise more than half of the Slovenians you met in the morning because they put on their sports gear after the workday and become recreational enthusiasts. This has been their life since they were children, when they had the opportunity to train in sports clubs, which are often run by volunteers, thus making various sports accessible to all children. "Negligible income disparities are one of the keys that allow the majority of Slovenians to participate in sport. There are sufficient resources to allow development into the top ranks of athletes. And, on the other hand, there are also sufficient limitations to prevent us becoming spoilt. This is the Slovenian recipe. Think Sweden without oil or large factories, and with significantly cleaner air. And why do so many Slovenians travel around the world to cheer on their sports heroes? “Because nature and all types of sport contribute to Slovenian national team building. And because we admire and appreciate the efforts and dedication that our sport heroes show," says Igor E. Bergant, a noted Slovenian journalist.

A basketball in every family

Basketball, one of the most popular team sports in Slovenia with a long and varied history, has a special place in Slovenian homes. A basketball can be found in almost every home and a basketball hoop on practically every corner or behind every house. Slovenians travel to all corners of the world to passionately and sincerely cheer on the top Slovenian basketball players. The greatest Slovenian basketball achievement took place in 2017, when the national team won the European Championship to score one of the biggest successes in Slovenian team sports. This exceptional win triggered a wave of euphoria in Slovenia, on which many fans are still riding today.

Luka Dončić

The Slovenian prodigy in the NBA is performing fantastically. Although Luka Dončić spent a lot of time abroad and is called Matador due to the basketball school he attended in Madrid, he never forgets to mention where he comes from. Dončić is an ambassador of Slovenian tourism and is proud of the exquisite palette of Slovenian shades of green. The NBA superstar is one of the youngest basketball sensations of all time, and renowned sports reporters are amazed by the maturity he shows on the court despite his youth. With his exceptional performances in the Dallas Mavericks shirt, Dončić is breaking the records of the greatest names in basketball.

Luka's favorite places to visit in Slovenia

Winning medals on skis

Skiing is a sport with a 300-year history and one of the oldest winter traditions in Europe. It holds a special place in Slovenian hearts. Bloke in Slovenia was the birthplace of skiing, and the people of Bloke were the first in Central Europe to use skies for walking on snow. Slovenians become familiar with skiing in their early childhood, so it’s not surprising that almost every fourth Slovenian owns a pair of skis. Frolicking in the snow becomes a national sport in winter. The most beautiful Slovenian ski resorts, Vogel, Kranjska Gora, Krvavec and Rogla, are frequented by experienced skiers and families due to their dynamic terrain. Races for the Alpine Ski World Cup for men and are held at Vitranc and Mt Pohorje in Maribor. Planica annually hosts the Ski Jumping World Cup Final. The Planica giant ski jumping hill is named after one of the founders of organised Slovenian sport, the designer and innovator Stanko Bloudek. 

Tina and Ilka, unrivalled queens

Slovenia is known for its many top skiers. The two best Slovenian Alpine skiers of all time have frequently surprised the skiing elite over the past decade. Tina Maze won four Olympic medals and six medals at world championships. She is one of only three female skiers in the world to have won in all five World Cup disciplines in a single season. Ilka Štuhec is the current downhill champion and the first Slovenian athlete to have won gold at two consecutive world championships.

Cycling fight for green

Bicycles are the most sustainable means of transport. Slovenia is a cycling-friendly country, and you can discover it on a bike by riding well-maintained cycling trails. You will be fascinated with the unspoiled nature you’ll discover as a mountain biker on tours or as a road cyclist. The TRANS Slovenia route is the most popular among MTB enthusiasts. It runs from the Julian Alps to the Adriatic Sea, while the Drava Cycle Path in the east attracts road and recreational cyclists. Adrenaline junkies can visit MTB parks; one of the most popular can be found in Kočevje in the shelter of mighty trees. City enthusiasts can cycle in the capital of Ljubljana on a city bike that can be rented at bike stands situated around the town.

Roglič, the flying arrow

Slovenia’s fight for green is also denoted by the only stage race taking place in Slovenia, the Tour of Slovenia with the motto FIGHT FOR GREEN, which was won in 2015 by Primož Roglič, currently one of the best cycling aces in the world and the winner of the 2019 Vuelta a España. The flying arrow from Zasavje, as he is called by the locals, began his professional cycling career in 2013. By 2015, he had already won the Tour of Slovenia. 2019 was considered a historic season for Roglič and Slovenian cycling, as he became number one in the UCI Individual Rankings. 

Pogačar - he came, he saw, he conquered

Tadej Pogačar is a wonder boy who at the age of 21 became the second-youngest champion of the most prestigious cycling race in the world - Tour de France. Nobody expected that he would take the victory at the famous Tour, where Slovenian flags fluttered proudly along the route. He did not only bring home the yellow jersey, but also the polka-dot jersey as the race’s top climber and the white one awarded to the best young rider.


Rowing power

Slovenians have always known how to row with or against the current; this sport is in our genes. Rowing is linked with the most iconic tourist sights around Slovenia. The first rowing club was organised in Piran on the Adriatic Coast even before the first modern Olympic Games. The Bled Rowing Club is the most renowned and is situated near Lake Bled, where World Cup competitions are organised. Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj are known as the most beautiful natural lakes in Slovenia.

Peter, the blasting cap

When visiting the valley of the Soča River, you will fall in love with this liveliest of Slovenian rivers, which poses a great challenge to kayakers. For a decade, Peter Kauzer has been one of the best white-water kayakers in the world. He won a silver medal at the Olympics in Rio and the Golden Paddle, the highest international accolade in kayaking. Kauzer enjoys competing on the Soča River where World Cup competitions have also been held in recent years.

Iztok Čop and Luka Špik

The Slovenian rowing champions in the double sculls, who grew better with age like a fine wine, won four medals at World Championships and three at Olympic Games. Čop’s successes in his flagship discipline, single sculls, must not be overlooked either, since he was a world champion in 1995.

Hiking trails at every turn

Young Slovenians often conquer peaks before they even start walking. Slovenian families go hiking in the mountains when their youngest children are still in carriers because they know how important it is for children to spend a lot of time in the great outdoors. It is said that if you have not climbed Mt Triglav, the highest Slovenian peak, you are not a true Slovenian. The surrounding area of this symbolic mountain and the Julian Alps offer the most unforgettable views from the new circular long-distance Juliana Trail and its 16 stages. The most popular long-distance trail in Slovenia, and one of the oldest in the world, is the Slovenian Mountain Trail going from east to west across the country and running over the Alpine ridges all the way to the Adriatic Sea. It is said that hiking the famous Alpe Adria Trail that connects Slovenia with Italy and Austria, one of the most popular trails in Europe, is like walking through paradise.


Andrej and Marija on the roof of the world 

Slovenian Alpine climbers who are known for climbing primary routes in the most inaccessible and feared mountains around the world have put Slovenia on the global map of mountaineering. Andrej and Marija Štremfelj, renowned Slovenian Alpine climbers, were recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first married couple to conquer the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest. Marija was the first Slovenian woman and the 13th woman in the world to climb Mount Everest. These experienced climbers now take hikers up Slovenian mountains, giving the experience a special and unique note.

Learn about the country of sporting fairy tales and heroes. It sometimes seems they are too good to be true, but they are nevertheless ordinary people in love with Slovenian nature.

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