Date: 10. January 2020
Time to read: 4 min
Looking back at the highlights of Slovenian sport in 2019, and to the 2020 sports year, the past year was action-packed with numerous medals, titles and hearts of supporters being won.
We lived an incredible volleyball fairy tale that captured the imagination of the whole country and encouraged thousands of supporters to travel to Paris.
We also witnessed the brilliant Primož Roglič who made Slovenia – already a great sporting nation – a major player in the world of cycling as he won the Vuelta after having excelled in the Giro. Not to mention the incredible Janja Garnbret who never ceases to conquer new climbing routes.
We are proud of our rider Tim Gajser who was once again crowned as world champion in motocross, and of Ilka Štuhec who, yet again, made a comeback following an injury. But, before her plans were once more thwarted by bad luck, she won her second world champion title in downhill skiing.
And last but not least, the Wonder Boy called Luka Dončić. This golden boy of basketball quickly grew up into a mature man and one of the biggest stars of the NBA league. Over the past year, Luka Dončić has probably done the most for the visibility of Slovenia both in the US and across the world.
The volleyball fairy tale
When the Slovenian part of the European Volleyball Championship began on 12 September, nobody could have expected what happened two weeks later. In the Stožice arena in Ljubljana, the Slovenian team made a fairy tale come true.
Volleyball instantly became the number one sport in Slovenia and trying to find tickets for the quarterfinals and semi-finals seemed to be a national pastime.
They won against the Russians and the Polish, who were world champions. Their supporters followed them to the finals in Paris. Even though in the end they did not win the gold medal, the silver medal was a great achievement. Immediately after their defeat against Serbia, the Slovenian volleyball team were understandably disappointed but soon cheered up. At the end of September, when they were greeted in Ljubljana at a reception for extraordinary achievements in sport, it was obvious that they had become a true sports sensation.
Janja Garnbret has been a sensation for years
Despite being very young, she has achieved almost everything possible in her career. Perhaps the only thing that is missing is an Olympic medal, but she will have an opportunity to attain it next year. However, she has won almost everything possible in 2019.
Three world champion titles, overall world cup winner in the combined discipline and the second place overall are her crowning achievements in the 2019 season.
At the world championship, she reached a new milestone in climbing by winning three titles in three disciplines: boulders, lead and combined. Needless to say, she will participate in the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, where climbers will compete for the first time. Garnbret will be aided by another compatriot, Mia Krampl, who is the world vice-champion in the lead discipline.
Ilka Štuhec experienced two milestones in 2019 — one extremely positive and the other less so positive
Both of the milestones happened within two weeks. On 10 February, she won the world champion title in downhill in Are, Sweden. This was the second title in her career and the second title in a row since 2017. She thus became the first skier after 30 years to have won two consecutive world champion titles in downhill, often referred to as the royal discipline.
Thanks to her, Slovenia has remained undefeated in these competitions since 2015, when Tina Maze won the gold medal.
Afterwards, the good times were soon over for Štuhec as she had to prematurely finish the season due to her fall and injury in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. As many times before, she once again made a comeback. Before the new season, she changed her coaching team but her first achievements in the season of 2019/2020 are not quite what she wished for. Nevertheless, her supporters are confident that she will soon be back to where she belongs: on the top of the podium.
Roglič kept us enthralled during the entire summer and autumn
Slovenian cycling enthusiasts knew what to expect as Roglič had already excelled in previous years. But this year he was even more exceptional. After winning a race in the United Arab Emirates, the Tyrrhenian-Adriatic race and Tour de Romandie race, he went on to the Giro where he won the introductory individual time trial and the pink jersey. He did not wear it to the end of the race – which was also due to a fall – but he nevertheless cycled all the way to the podium.
This marked the first Slovenian podium ever in one of the three-week races. He did not participate in the Tour, but then triumphed in the Vuelta.
He became the first Slovenian to win one of the major races.
And, on top of that, he was accompanied by an amazing fellow Slovenian, the young Tadej Pogačar, who won three stages in Spain. 'Rogla' will not defend his Spanish victory in 2020. Instead, he decided to take on a third great challenge: the Tour.
Gajser has already been on top once
In 2016, Gajser became the world champion in the elite MXGP class for the first time. Two less successful years full of troubles and injuries followed. But last year, things were completely different. Once a wunderkind of motocross, who in the meantime grew into a mature young man, proved that he belongs among the very best motocross riders. While at the beginning of the season it seemed that the battle for domination will be fought against an Italian, Antonio Cairoli, Gajser prevailed in the second part of the season.
Victories followed one after another and from 19 May to 14 July he had already had seven wins in a row and thus paved his way to glory.
He actually won his title no sooner than on 18 August, even though it had already been clear during the summer that nobody would be able to catch up with him. His faithful supporters, who created a true "Gajsermania" throughout the summer, had again cause for celebration.
The Olympic Games and football at the centre of the 2020 sports year
The year 2020 will see two major events: the European Football Championship and the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Many people will find it difficult to decide which event to give preference to, but sports enthusiasts will probably follow both of them. The football championship will take place at the beginning of summer, from 12 June to 12 July, whereas the Olympic Games will represent the peak of the hot summer as Japan will host the world’s best sportsmen and sportswomen between 24 July and 9 August.
As usual, this year will also be marked by world cups in winter sports that will be held in Slovenia.
The events that will significantly raise the visibility of Slovenia worldwide are the following: alpine skiing in Maribor and Kranjska gora, Pokljuka, which will serve as a dress rehearsal for the world biathlon championship one year later, Rogla for snowboarders and the essential Planica with its ski flying world championship between 19 and 22 March. One should not overlook the Tour of Slovenia, which is increasingly gaining recognition due to the achievements of Slovenian cyclists.