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Sochi Marks Apex for Slovenian Winter Sports

Sochi/Ljubljana, 23 February - As the curtain falls on the Sochi Olympics, Slovenia can look back gleefully on the most successful winter games in history. Eight medals, more than in six previous winter games combined, including two golds, mark an apex for Slovenian winter sports.

Sochi, Russia
Teja Gregorin wins bronze in the biathlon pursuit
Photo: Stanko Gruden/STA

Sochi, Russia
Vesna Fabjan, winner of bronze in the free sprint
Photo: Stanko Gruden/STA

Sochi, Russia
Slovenian ski jumper Peter Prevc wins silver in men's individual normal hill
Photo: Stanko Gruden/STA

Russia, Sochi
Slovenia's Žan Košir won bronze in Wednesday's snowboard parallel giant slalom at the Sochi Winter Olympics, securing Slovenia's first ever Olympic snowboard medal.
Photo: Stanko Gruden/STA

Sochi, Russia
Alpine skier Tina Maze wins gold in the women's downhill event at the Winter Olympics 2014.
Photo: Stanko Gruden/STA

Eight medals is arguably a tally that few expected before the games began two weeks ago though many may have wished it.

Tina Maze achieved the peak of her career with golds in downhill and giant slalom, the only accolades missing in her illustrious collection of achievements.

Ski jumper Peter Prevc, only 21 and already a winner of a silver and a bronze medal, showed he has got the kind of nerves typically associated with much more seasoned athletes.

Snowboarder Žan Košir is the third member of the team to have won two medals, with one each added by cross country skier Vesna Fabjan and biathlete Teja Gregorin, who plans to retire soon.

Indeed, Slovenia was the second most successful country in the Olympics in terms of medals per capita, edged only by Norway.

Add to that another 19 top-ten finishes and the small nation's feat becomes even more impressive.

Sochi was the first winter Olympics to feature a Slovenian team, and the ice hockey players exceeded all expectations.

Drawn into a "group of death" with the United States, Russia and Slovakia, they defied all expectations by beating Slovakia in the group competition and then defeating Austria to qualify for the quarter finals.

Seventh place overall is a truly impressive achievement for a country with only a handful of clubs and fewer than 200 registered players.

The success led to an unprecedented wave of cheering in Slovenia, providing a welcome break amidst the bleak reality of economic depression.

Janez Kocjančič, the retiring head of the Slovenian Olympic Committee, said Sochi was "by far the most successful Olympics for us."

"We were right in saying that we are heading to Sochi with the strongest team ever. We've placed in the group of the most successful winter-sport nations," he said as the games closed.

Petra Majdič, the head of the Slovenian team, hopes the success will motivate people to take up sport.

"I hope people go out and start doing sport. Our athletes have shown that there is a beautiful energy in sport. If you ever despair, remember sport, it is always beautiful."

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© STA, 2014