Slovenia has a sporting heart

There are not many countries in the world that have such a large share of top athletes as Slovenia. The host of the IBU Biathlon World Championships 2021 Pokljuka is one of the top countries in the world in terms of the number of Olympic medals per capita. The phenomenon of Slovenian sports success begins with children, and general physical activities among Slovenes. A nation of 2 million people has more than 7,000 categorized athletes. More than two thirds of the population is engaged in recreational sport activities. Since last year, Slovenia celebrates a national holiday dedicated to sports.

Slovenia has top athletes in many sports. So far, Slovenian athletes have won 68 medals at the Olympic Games under three different flags, 40 of them as an independent country. Gymnastics, Alpine skiing, ski jumping, rowing and judo are the most successful sports regarding the number of Olympic medals.

Some athletes stand out by setting new milestones on a global scale. With 2414 points, Alpine ski queen Tina Maze is still the record holder for the number of World Cup points collected in one season. Cyclists Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar have put Slovenia on the cycling Olympus with historic Slovenian victories at the Tour de France, Vuelta, and other prestigious races. Basketball players Luka Dončić and Goran Dragić astonish with their performances in the NBA league, and hockey player Anže Kopitar has been the captain of the LA Kings in the NHL for many years. Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid) is one of the best football goalkeepers in the world, Sport climber Janja Garnbret is the first in the history of this sport to win three gold medals at a single championship. Peter Prevc is the third best ski jumper in the past decade.

There are many other Slovene athletes with records and medals from the biggest sporting events. Slovenia draws attention also in team sports. The title of European basketball champions (2017) and the two titles of European vice champions in volleyball are only few latest achievements. Slovenia has one of the best handball teams in the world, while the national football, hockey, and even water polo team also took part in the world-class competitions.

Slovenia has achieved some remarkable successes in biathlon as well. The most impressive results have been obtained by Jakov Fak, who won the silver medal in the individual event at the last Olympic Games in Pyongyang, and Teja Gregorin, who took the bronze in the pursuit in Sochi 2014. In the past, Andreja Grašič, Tadeja Brankovič, Janez Marič, Tomas Globočnik, Matjaž Poklukar and Marko Dolenc also stood on the podium at World Cup competitions.

There are many reasons why Slovenia is such a phenomenon in sports. As the former Slovenian sports journalist Igor E. Bergant notes in his thinking, the location and diversity of Slovenia offer many opportunities for outdoor activities. Slovenia has a well-developed sporting infrastructure. Although most activities are not free of charge, they are often subsidized by local communities. Work in many local sports clubs is based on voluntary work.

Slovenians are mostly hard working and motivated to prove themselves. However, in order to achieve even greater success, they may be lacking some extra self-confidence.