Slovenian athlete Jernej Slivnik to compete at the PyeongChang Paralympics

The young athlete's dream come true

After the Winter Olympics in South Korea, PyeongChang will now welcome Paralympic athletes at the opening of their Games on 9 March.   Among the competitors will be Jernej Slivnik, the 17-year old Slovenian para-skier and student of Jesenice Grammar School. His event is monoskiing.

From 9 to 18 March, the world’s top para-athletes will compete at the 12th Paralympic Games in far-flung South Korea, where  Slovenia will be represented by Jernej Slivnik, a talented para-Alpine skier.

He will be accompanied by his coach, Roman Podlipnik, assistant coach and former Paralympian Gal Jakič, and physiotherapist Manca Vida. The team will be headed by Roman Jakič.  Jernej will compete in the slalom and giant slalom. His results at the World Cup races in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, this January helped him qualify, and confirmed that he will be a worthy opponent in South Korea.   

Coach Podlipnik is convinced that, despite his young age and inexperience, his protégé will aim for one of the top places at the Paralympics, while gaining valuable experience.  Moreover, Jernej has the makings of a Paralympic champion, in his opinion.

Podlipnik’s predictions are also backed up by the results. Jernej started his career as the youngest para-skier at major world skiing competitions last year with three World Cup races in Kranjska Gora. In 2016, at his very first official youth race in slalom at Landgraaf in the Netherlands, he won gold.

Dream come true

Jernej has been in a wheelchair since the age of five. He is one of those children who very early in their lives dare to dream big. Not being able to walk due to an accident, he decided to ski. Since then he has trained hard to be able to compete at the 2018 Paralympics in South Korea. His father and brother, and especially his mother Tanja, supported his endeavours.

He was lucky in that he quickly got to know the now retired Paralympian Gal Jakič. “Gal and his family have always been a great help to me,” says Jernej, expressing gratitude to his role model, who helped him “cut” the ski trails and make his first turns easier. He was also assisted by what could be called happy coincidence. The first ski camp of the Slovenian Paraplegic Association was organised in 2009 in Kranjska Gora, some 20 kilometres from Hrušica, where Jernej lives, and he was only too happy to take part in the camp and sit on the monoski formally for the first time. This year will see the 10th camp at Rogla. “I remember taking part in the camp. Already then I knew that I wanted to compete at the Paralympic Games. I really enjoyed it, even on my first attempt,” underlines Jernej, who is a neighbour of Anže Kopitar.

Another Slovenian sports hero

Jernej is definitely something special. He did not let his tough experience in life beat him, which makes him a sports hero on a par with his colleagues who have just returned from PyeongChang.  He already has the medal of courage.

Text by Tanja Glogovčan
Photo: Disabled Sports Federation of Slovenia - Paralympic Committee Archives