Basketball, handball team, Savšek and Štuhec win top sport prizes
Ljubljana, 16 February - The men's national basketball and handball teams, canoeist Benjamin Savšek and Alpine skier Ilka Štuhec were honoured with the 2017 Bloudek Prizes as the highest national awards for achievements in sports were handed out at a ceremony in Brdo pri Kranju on Friday.
The basketball team achieved the best result ever in Slovenian team sports by winning the EuroBasket in Turkey in September, with captain Goran Dragić declared the most valuable player.
Slovenia won the trophy by beating Serbia in the finals. "Proving that they were not afraid of the historic opportunity, they played the game like the biggest stars of European basketball," the award jury said.
The handball team won bronze at the world championships in France in January 2017 with an improbable come-from-behind win against the fierce rivals and neighbours Croatia.
"This generation also finished 6th at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, which is still the greatest result by Slovenia in team sports at the Olympics," the jury said.
Benjamin Savšek was honoured for becoming the world champion in the C1 canoe whitewater slalom in France in September, his first gold medal after two silver and three bronze medals at world championships.
The 30-year-old "has been one of the best whitewater canoeists in the world for years", and with "his attitude to sport, he has been a great inspiration for young athletes", the jury said.
Ilka Štuhec was acknowledged for winning the women's downhill at the World Ski Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland last February, and for taking small crystal globes in the World Cup in downhill and combined.
Štuhec will unfortunately not able to defend her titles and is not competing at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang because she suffered a season-ending knee injury during training in October.
"The always smiling Ilka Štuhec certainly belongs to the best Slovenian and world skiers, and personifies positive energy and heroic fight for a set goal," the jury said.
Jury head Miroslav Cerar, a two-time Olympic gymnastics champion, said at the ceremony that "2017 was not an Olympic year, but there were plenty of successes nevertheless. It was hard for the jury to pick the winners."
Last year, the Bloudek Prizes went to ski-jumping coach Gabriel Jelko Gros, former national football team coach Srečko Katanec, long-time athletics official Martin Steiner and judoka Tina Trstenjak.