Sport in Slovenia
The most popular team sports in Slovenia are association football, basketball, ice hockey, handball, ski jumping and skiing. Individual sports such as athletics, cycling, and tennis are also popular. Slovenia has competed in eleven summer and winter Olympic Games. It is also known for its athletes, such as ultramarathon swimmer Martin Strel and Davo Karničar, the only person to ski down Mount Everest.
The highest level in Slovenian football is the Slovenian PrvaLiga (1. SNL), with 10 teams. The Slovenia national football team have qualified for two FIFA World Cups (2002 and 2010) and one UEFA European Football Championship (2000). The Slovenian team qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup by upsetting heavily favored Russia in the qualifying tournament. The team played in the Group C with England, Algeria, and the United States. Notable current and former Slovenian international footballers include Samir Handanović, Milivoje Novaković, Josip Iličić, Boštjan Cesar, Jan Oblak, Valter Birsa, Brane Oblak, Danilo Popivoda, Srečko Katanec, Džoni Novak and Zlatko Zahovič.
The highest level of Slovene basketball is the Premier A Slovenian Basketball League. The Slovenian national basketball team has qualified for 13 Eurobaskets, including a fourth-place finish in 2009, and three FIBA World Championships in 2006, 2010 and 2014. Notable Slovene basketball players include Goran Dragić, Zoran Dragić, Sasha Vujačić, Radoslav Nesterović, Beno Udrih, Matjaž Smodiš, Marko Milič, Ivo Daneu, Peter Vilfan, Vinko Jelovac, Aljoša Žorga, Primož Brezec, Boštjan Nachbar, Sani Bečirović and Jaka Lakovič.
The Slovenian Ice Hockey Championship is the highest level ice hockey league in the country. The Slovenia men's national ice hockey team has qualified for nine Ice Hockey World Championships. One of Slovenia's most famous athletes is Anže Kopitar, who plays in the United States for the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League. His €34.7 million (USD $47.6 million), seven-year contract is the largest contract held by any Slovene athlete. He became first Slovenian to win the Stanley Cup in 2012 with the Los Angeles Kings, while being tied for the top scorer of the playoffs. Other notable Slovene hockey players include Robert Kristan, Jan Muršak, David Rodman and Marcel Rodman, Rok Tičar, Žiga Pance, Žiga Jeglič, Tomaž Vnuk, Dejan Kontrec and Bojan Zajc.
Handball is a popular sport in Slovenia. Slovenia has played at eight handball world championships and was ranked fourth at the 2013 championships in Spain. Slovenia has played ten times at the European handball championships. The team was the runner-up at the 2004 championship held in Slovenia.
Slovenian club RK Celje won the Champions League in 2004, beating Flensburg in the final. They also played six times in a row in the Champions League semi-finals. Other notable Slovenian teams are RD Slovan (1980 Champions Cup finalists), RK Gorenje and RK Koper.
Rugby union is a growing sport in Slovenia, and they are currently ranked 43rd by the IRB. The governing body is Rugby Zveza Slovenije (Rugby Union of Slovenia). Slovenia borders Italy, which is a major rugby playing nation. In recent years, however, there have been serious attempts by Australian Football to expand into the Balkans, using substantial financial incentives, and expats from Australia. There are many active clubs with the main ones being RAK Olimpija, RFC Bezigrad and RK Ljubljana.
Alpine skiing is very popular in Slovenia. Skis were known since the 17th century and modern competitive skiing started from twenties onwards. During the time of Yugoslavia national skiing squad was made almost exclusively of Slovenes and World Cup races started in Podkoren in 1961. Today Slovenia hosts FIS Alpine Ski World Cup in Kranjska Gora and Maribor each season. Mateja Svet and Jure Franko won olympic medals for Yugoslavia, while Jure Košir, Katja Koren, Alenka Dovžan and Tina Maze did the same after the independence. Other past skiing stars include Boris Strel, Rok Petrovič, Bojan Križaj, Mitja Kunc, Urška Hrovat, Špela Pretnar and Nataša Bokal.
Ski jumping is another popular winter sport in Slovenia. The first national championship was held in 1921 in Bohinj, when Jože Pogačar won with 9 metre jump. After that many ski jumpers had great success for Yugoslavia, with Jože Šlibar making a world record jump in 1961. After the introduction of FIS Ski Jumping World Cup in 1979 SR Slovenia was a regular host of matches in Planica, while the most successful jumper in the period was Primož Ulaga with 9 wins for Yugoslavia. In 1997 and 1998 Primož Peterka won two World Cup titles. Other notable ski jumpers are Peter Prevc, Jurij Tepeš, Robert Kranjec, Rok Benkovič, Jernej Damjan, Peter Žonta, Franci Petek and Špela Rogelj.
Since 2011 Slovenian men jumping coach is Goran Janus and he with his assistants is the most important part of revival of Slovenian ski jumping results. Under his leadership, Slovenians won a lot of individual wins, Olympic medals, world championship medals, world record. And interestingly: in 2012 Slovenian men's team won their first team event in ski jumping and since then Slovenia have 9 team wins. Also under his guidance Peter Prevc won 2015/16 Four Hills Tourney, World ski-flying championship in 2016 and overall World cup title for the season 2015/16(Peter won WC 6 events before the final in Planica)
Cross-country skiing has, along with alpine skiing and ski jumping, long tradition in Slovenia, but all the major competitive results came in the last years. First cross-country competition in Slovenia was organized in Bohinjska Bistrica in 1914. During the time of Yugoslavia best result was Franc Smolej's 10th place at 1936 Winter Olympics. Petra Majdič is by far most successful Slovenian cross-country skier, she won 24 World Cup races and one Olympic medal. Current stars include Vesna Fabjan and Katja Višnar.
Biathlon is a growing sport in Slovenia. It was practically unknown before the independence and no major results were achieved before the nineties. World Cup races are held in Pokljuka since 1992, Andreja Koblar won first race for Slovenian women squad in 1996, while Janez Marič did the same for men in 2003. Currently the biggest star is Croatian born Jakov Fak, who won several World Championships medals, while other famous biathletes include Teja Gregorin, Andreja Mali, Tomas Globočnik and Klemen Bauer.
Light athletics started in Slovenia first as recreation in late 19th century Sokol movement and as sport in 1913, when it was introduced in SK Ilirija football club in Ljubljana. It grew into own branch after the World War I and was very popular in Kingdom of Yugoslavia with first Slovenian championship held in 1920. However, international results came only in socialist era, first European Championship medal in 1958 (Stanko Lorger) and first world record in 1964 (Draga Stamejčič). Most famous Slovenian athletic clubs are ŽAK from Ljubljana and Kladivar from Celje, while current and past stars include Primož Kozmus, Jolanda Čeplak, Matic Osovnikar, Martina Ratej, Brigita Bukovec, Britta Bilač, Borut Bilač, Gregor Cankar, Sonja Roman, Brigita Langerholc, Helena Javornik, Alenka Bikar, Rožle Prezelj, Boštjan Buč.
Cycling has a long tradition in Slovenia. The first cycling club was founded by Germans in Ljubljana in 1885 and Slovenian Cycling Club followed there two years later. It then spread to Gorica, Maribor and other cities and slowly developed into major competitive sport in Yugoslavia after World War I. Slovenian cyclists were not as successful as their team mates from other parts of the country and Josip Šolar and Bruno Faninger were the only Slovenian mid-war cycling champions of Yugoslavia in 1925 and 1935. In Socialist Yugoslavia Slovenian cycling grow with famous clubs such as Rog (Ljubljana), Sava (Kranj) and Krka (Novo mesto). Current and former stars include Borut Božič, Janez Brajkovič, Jure Golčer, Andrej Hauptman, Matej Mugerli, Uroš Murn, Jure Robič, Simon Špilak, Gorazd Štangelj, Tadej Valjavec, Tanja Žakelj, Blaža Klemenčič and Primož Roglič.
Motorsport started with Ilirija Motorsport Club in 1913 and became popular during the two world wars. ŽSK Hermes built first motorsport track at ŽŠD Ljubljana and Ludvik Starič became serial yugoslav champipon in the thirties. Currently Slovenia hosts Grand Prix races at Matija Gubec Stadium in Krško, while there is also a speedway track at Ilirija Sports Park in Ljubljana. Current and former Slovenian motorsport stars include Matej Ferjan, Matej Žagar, Sašo Kragelj and Miran Stanovnik.
The only woman to have circumnavigated the world on a motorbike is Slovenian Benka Pulko. On June 19, 1997, Benka Pulko departed from her hometown of Ptuj, Slovenia on a BMW F650 motorcycle. She returned to Ptuj on December 10, 2002, having established the Guinness World Records for the longest solo motorcycle ride ever undertaken by a woman - in both distance, 180,015 km, and duration, 2,000 days. In the process she also became the first motorcyclist to reach Antarctica, and the first woman to ride solo across Saudi Arabia.
The most famous Slovenian fencer is Rudolf Cvetko, who won Olympic silver medals in 1912 for Austria. He was the first Slovenian to win an Olympic medal and the most important promoter of fencing in Yugoslavnian Slovenia.
Gymnastics was very important part of Slovenian beginnings in sport in form of national revival through Falcon and Hawk societies(Sokolska in Orlovska društva). They were very important for socializing among young Slovenes and to keep their language alive; and to keep with the saying: Mens sana in corpore sano. This helped Slovenians to win 8 Olympic medals for Kingdom of Yugoslavia. All in the gymnastics. Sadly those were the only medals for KoY prior WW2. Current and past athletes include Leon Štukelj, Mitja Petkovšek, Aljaž Pegan, Stane Derganc, Josip Primožič, Miroslav Cerar, Adela Šajn, Rok Klavora and Sašo Bertoncelj.
Slovenia has a short shoreline but has very successful sailors, including Olympic medalist Vasilij Žbogar, Dejan Vinčec, and others.
Slovenia has some incredible coastline, lakes and rivers for standup paddleboarding.
Rajmond Debevec won Olympic gold and bronze, as well as numerous other achievements. He is the best Slovenian shooter in history. He participated in seven Olympic games in a row for Yugoslavia and also holds the world record in 3-p, Munich WCF 1992, 1186 p.
Slovenia is also a major force in alpinism. Some of the greatest legends of alpinism are Slovenian, including Tomaž Humar, Tomo Česen, and Julius Kugy. Other notable Slovenian alpinists are Jakob Aljaž, Klement Jug, Davo Karničar, Nejc Zaplotnik, Miha Valič, Aljaž Anderle, Viki Grošelj, Pavle Kozje, and Igor Škamperle.
Since the former Yugoslavia split up, Slovenian rowers have enjoyed excellent results in international competition. The most famous rower in Slovenia is Iztok Čop. Other important rowers are Milan Janša, Jani Klemenčič, Rok Kolander, Sašo Mirjanič, Sadik Mujkić, Miha in Matjaž Pirih, Denis Žvegelj, Matej Prelog, and Luka Špik.
Slovenia has achieved disproportionate Olympic success relative to its size, with nineteen medals at six(4 gold, 6 silver and 9 bronze) Summer Olympics and fifteen medals at seven (2 gold, 4 silver and 9 bronze) Winter Olympics.
Prior year 1991 Slovenian athletes competed for other countries. First medal won by an ethnic Slovenian was Rudolf Cvetko who won silver in fencing in 1912 representing Austria. After WW1 when Habsburgh monarchy collapsed and Kingdom of Yugoslavia was formed. Slovenian athletes won all medals for Kingdom of Yugoslavia prior WW2. More exactly Leon Štukelj won 2 gold in gymnastics in 1924. Than Štukelj won gold and bronze in 1928. Josip Primožič won silver and Stane Derganc won bronze. Also gymnast team won bronze medal in team all-around gymnastics. And finally Leon Štukelj at the age of 38 won silver at man's rings in OG in Berlin in 1936. This is interesting because all olympic medals for new composited nation of Kingdom of Yugoslavia were won by ethnic Slovenians. After WW2 Slovenians under Yugoslav flag won more medals.
Ethnic Slovenians who were born and lived in other countries also won medals for their respective countries.
Slovenia has competed in the Mediterranean games since 1993. It is ranked twelfth in the all-time rankings. As of 2016, Slovenia's Mediterranean games medal count is 136 including 40 gold, 39 silver and 57 bronze medals.
- "PrvaLiga" (in Slovenian). Slovenian PrvaLiga official website. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
- "Košarkarska zveza Slovenije" (in Slovenian). Basketball Federation of Slovenia official website. Retrieved 12 February 2010.
- "Hokejska zveza Slovenije" (in Slovenian). Hockey Federation of Slovenia official website. Retrieved 12 February 2010.
- "Rugby Zveza Slovenije". Retrieved 19 September 2013.
- "VANCOUVER 2010".