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Annual Review of Slovenian Sports

Ljubljana, 10 December - The past year brought confirmation of the topic of pub conversations in recent years: the decline of Slovenian team sports and the rise of athletes in individual sports. Outstanding achievements in individual sports ensured Slovenian fans had something to celebrate in the face of the struggles of their football, handball and ice hockey teams. Even the Winter Olympic Games in Nagano failed to satisfy the expectations of sport fans. The battle for top athlete in the women's competition was a tight race between cross country skier Petra Majdic and tennis player Katarina Srebotnik, while the field was much wider among the men. Gymnast Aljaz Pegan, track star Matic Osovnikar, swimmer Peter Mankoc, cyclist Janez Brajkovic, speedway racer Matej Zagar and NHL rookie Anze Kopitar are all in the hunt for the coveted title of top men's athlete of 2006. While being a breakthrough year for some, the past 12 months also saw a number of athletes announce their retirement. The exit of skier Jure Kosir, cross country skier Andreja Koblar and tennis player Maja Matevzic all made headlines; but none was as unexpected as the decision of top swimming talent Blaz Medvesek to end what had been a promising career because of poor conditions available to him for training and competition. Medvesek was not the only athlete to complain about the state of Slovenian sports funding: one of Slovenia's winningest athletes, rower Iztok Cop, went as far as threatening to quit before the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 if something was not done about the state of finances in Slovenian sports. Individual athletes were not the only ones struggling to get by this year, as one of Slovenia's best-known clubs was again having to cope with a chronic cash shortage. Olimpija's performances in Europe's strongest basketball competition, the Euroleague, reflected the troubles that reached a new low in October and November, when the head coach quit and the players threatened to go on strike because of not getting paid on time.

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© STA, 2006