Jernej Slivnik is an aspiring para alpine skier who is conquering summets at the young age of 19 and holds great promise for the future. Despite his life-changing accident, he remains an optimist. He is in love with skiing and pasta. Jernej is in his third year of the Jesenice Secondary School in and has a clear goal – to become one of the best athletes in the world.
When you search for Jernej Slivnik online, a photo of a smiling, handsome, light-haired young man pops up. With his sparkling blue eyes he emits such positive energy from a photo alone that you are immediately drawn in.
The 19-year-old para alpine skier, competing on a monoski, was born in November 2000. Life was not easy on him at the beginning.
A car accident in 2006 would forever injure his body and soul. The accident took away his two biggest loves and almost his third love, but despite severe head and spine trauma, he was able to bring it back with time, a lot of will power and persistence.
Unfortunately, nobody can give him back his dad and sister. Most people would give up when faced with such a tragedy, but Jernej gathered all his strength and is now living his dreams.
He is not a fan of chocolate, but he loves sweets. His favourite colour is blue, he loves pasta and the popular TV show Friends.
Jernej lives in Hrušica in the Gorenjska region. Hrušica is a small village and the hometown of another champion – Slovenian hockeyplayer Anže Kopitar, who is inspiring us with his performances in the American Hockey League as the captain of the Los Angeles Kings. Anže is Jernej’s biggest role model and good friend.
- Jernej fell in love with skiing when he was two years old. His father was the one who sparked his love of this sport. Today, ten years after the beginning of his professional career, skiing is his whole life. Photo: NPC Slovenia archives
- Jernej is a 19 year old athlete who despite his life-changing accident remains an optimist. He likes candy, pasta and hockey. Anže Kopitar, slovenian hockeyplayer, is Jernej’s biggest role model and good friend. Photo: NPC Slovenia archives
Skiing is his life
Skiing has always been Jernej's number one sport. His father was the one who sparked his love of this sport. He started skiing at an early age – at two years old he was already standing on skis by himself. After the accident, he kept asking his mother Tanja whether he’ll be able to ski again. His love for skiing and his desire to get back on the white slopes motivated him throughout his recovery. Skiing was his lifeline.
“When I sat down in the monoski for the first time after the accident, I fell in love with this sport again, this time for good. After ten years, I can say that skiing is my way of life and I can’t imagine a day without skiing anymore,” says Jernej.
His talent was first discovered by an athlete with a disability and an Olympic contestant, Gal Jakič, who invited Jernej to a skiing camp for people with disabilities in Kranjska Gora. At the tender age of nine, Jernej started his journey to become a professional para alpine skier. His trainer became Bojan Kavčič, who was also Gal Jakič’s trainer during his preparations for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Jernej’s competitive journey began on a high note. With a victory. At his first official international junior race in the Netherlands, he was the first to cross the finish line. His joy was indescribable.
“I will never forget this race. I was fifteen years old, I didn’t know what to expect nor how good the other contestants were. Everything was new to me, but I did an excellent job. Shortly after, I competed in the men’s race for the first time and I did a good job there, too,” Jernej remembers the match.
He trains practically every day of the week. “This season, I’m training a lot more than in the previous ones. I have ski sessions and training sessions on “dry land” six or seven times a week. In the winter, there are more ski sessions, while in the summer, we spend more time training in the gym. When there is no snow on Slovenian ski slopes, we train abroad,” Jernej says.
Main goal – to win an Olympic medal and the crystal globe
Today, one of his biggest achievements is qualifying for the Winter Paralympics in South Korea where he ranked 12th in slalom. He was only eighteen years old. Recently, he was very successful at the Europa Cup for para alpine skiers in Zagreb and in Slovakia. In Zagreb he won the giant slalom, and in Slovakia he ranked third twice in the giant slalom and came in third place in the slalom.
“At the moment, I am ranked 15th in the world in the men’s slalom competition. In the giant slalom, my ranking is slightly lower, but I am convinced that when I bring my level of perfomances from training sessions to the races themselves, I will be able to improve it,” Jernej is determined.
He aims high. “I want to improve everyday. In sports as well as in general. I want to become one of the best athletes in the world. My dreams and my main goal are Olympic medals, World Cup medals and the crystal globe. I believe that I can achieve all that with hard work, discipline and perserverance,” he adds. Jernej’s coach, Roman Podlipnik, has his eyes set on the same prizes.
A talented contestant who had to earn his success
“Jernej is very talented. We began working together about five years ago when he enrolled in the Jesenice Secondary School where I work as a gym teacher.
At first, our time together was limited to afternoon sessions in Kranjska Gora and training on ski slopes in neighbouring Austria on weekends and during school holidays.
After the first year, this was expanded to a cooperation between the Jesenice Secondary School and the Paralympic Committee of Slovenia,” Podlipnik explains. He describes working with Jernej as challenging, demanding and full of daily challenges. “Jernej requires only a little more experience and physical strength to reach his biggest goals.
For the next few years, our goal is a very standard one for athletes – reach the highest rankings at the biggest competitions. Of course, there is a level of working conditions that is neccessary in order to reach these goals and, at the moment, these conditions are quite limited.
However, where there is a will, there is a way. I am convinced that with regular training sessions, Jernej can succeed. He will have to work hard for it, of course.
He will need to make many sacrifices and have patience and perserverance,” Jernej’s coach Roman Podlipnik concludes.
We are sure that Jernej will continue winning medals. In the eyes of many, he is already a winner in the face of the adversities he has faced. Good luck, Jernej!
Date: 9. March 2020
Time to read: 3 min