Winning disciplines

Sara Isaković won the first Olympic medal ever for Slovenia in swimming at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Photo: Primož Lavre

Slovenian athletes are very successful at international level. The number of medals won at the international level is considerable for a nation with barely two million citizens. One of their most successful events was the Olympic Games in Sydney, where they won two gold medals, putting Slovenia in fifth place according to the number of medals won per country with regard to population. Slovenes rank among the best in skiing, athletics, ski jumping, gymnastics, rowing and white-water canoeing.

Slovenian clubs competing in team sports have also achieved international recognition. National teams have successfully competed in basketball, volleyball, handball and football. The Slovenian football team qualified for the European Championship in 2000, for the 2002 World Cup and for the 2010 World Cup. The Slovenian handball team won the silver medal at the 2004 European Championship in Ljubljana.

Mountaineering and climbing have a long tradition in Slovenia. They require great athletic ability and tests human endurance. It is not surprising that Slovenian mountaineers were among the first to ascend some of the most difficult routes in the Himalayas and other mountain ranges. Hiking is also one of the most popular forms of recreation.


Mitja Petkovšek on parallel bars.

The first important results of Slovenian athletes at major competitions were achieved in gymnastics. The greatest Slovenian sporting legend of all time is Leon Štukelj, with whom the success story of Slovenian sports began. Between 1922 and 1936 he won eight gold, four silver, and five bronze medals in three Olympic Games, and three world championship titles. After the Second World War, the reputation of Slovenian gymnastics was carried forward by Miro Cerar, who won twogold and one bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and Mexico. He was also among the best at the world championships in Moscow in 1958, Prague in 1962, Dortmund in 1966 and Ljubljana in 1970. Recently, the gymnasts Aljaž Pegan and Mitja Petkovšek have won international recognition.

Winter Sports

Bohinj, Vogel. Glittering with white snow in winter, Bohinj and its surroundings welcome enthralled alpine and cross-country skiers, as well as mountain climbers. Photo: Egon Kaše

In Slovenia, skiing is considered to be the national sport. In the last twenty years, it has been skiers who have achieved the best results and have stood on winning podiums at major competitions (world cups, world championships and the Olympics).

Slovenian ski jumpers are also very successful (Franci Petek, Primož Peterka, Rok Benkovič, Robert Kranjec).

In the past few seasons, cross-country skier Petra Majdič has delighted her fans with a string of great performances. She also won the Slovenian Athlete of the Year 2006 and 2009 Award.  

In addition to Slovenian athletes, we must also mention the excellent Slovenian organisers of world competitions. The Vitranc Cup  in Kranjska gora and the Zlata Lisica Cup  on the Pohorje are official World Cup skiing competitions. Every year, the final event of the ski-jumping World Cup takes place at Planica , on the largest natural ski-jump in the world.


Iztok Čop and Luka Špik. Photo: Uroš Hočevar /Salomon 2000

Since 1992, Slovenes have also been extremely successful in rowing. In addition to earning numerous top titles, Iztok Čop  and Luka Špik won a gold medal in men's double sculls at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. In 2005, at the World Rowing Championships in the Japan's Gifu, they won gold medals in the men’s double sculls and silver medals in the men’s quadruple sculls. Following these brilliant successes, Čop and Špik were designated 2005 FISA Rowing Male Crew of the Year.

Other Sports

In Vancouver Tina Maze won two silver medals, becoming the best Slovenian Olympic woman athlete. Photo Aleš Fevžer

The 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta were also very successful for Slovenian athletes. Track and field athlete Brigita Bukovec missed gold by just one hundredth of a second in the 100 metres hurdles. Also successful was Andraž Vehovar, with a silver medal in white-water canoeing (K-1 slalom). Three years later, Gregor Cankar was among the best athletes at the world championship in Seville, taking bronze in the long jump.

Slovenes were also delighted at the performances of the ‘golden’ national football team between the years 1998 and 2002, with Srečko Katanec as coach. Our footballers surprised everyone by qualifying for the 2000 European Championship in the Netherlands and Belgium, and for the 2002 World Championship in Korea and Japan. Slovenia qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Slovenian athletes won 4 Olympic medals - one silver and three bronze: rowers Iztok Čop and Luka Špik, the gold medallists from Sydney, won a silver medal in the men’s double sculls; the track and field athlete Jolanda Čeplak, the world indoor record holder in the women’s 800 metres, won a bronze medal; Urška Žolnir won a bronze medal in judo in the under 63kg category; and Vasilij Žbogar, the 2003 European champion, won a bronze medal in the laser sailing competition.

At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing Primož Kozmus won the gold medal in hammer throw (he also won gold at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin), and Vasilij Žbogar a silver medal in the laser sailing competition while Lucija Polavder won bronze medal in judo in over 78kg category and the Rajmond Debevec as well a bronze medal in 50 metre rifle three positions.

Sara Isaković won the first Olympic medal ever for Slovenia in swimming at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

In 2009 Peter Mankoč set a new world record in 100 m medley in short pools at the European Championships in Istanbul.

At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver with two silver (Tina Maze) and one bronze (Petra Majdič), Slovenia again was one of the countries with many medals given the size of its population.