Winter Olympics: Slovenia Unlikely to Match Sochi Results

By , 08 Feb 2018, 12:54 PM Sport
Winter Olympics: Slovenia Unlikely to Match Sochi Results Flickr: Korean Culture and Information Service, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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But a number of medals still possible. 

STA, February 8 2018 - The bulk of Slovenia's 71-strong team, the largest for the country at Winter Olympics to date, has arrived in PyeongChang and is facing an almost impossible challenge of matching the incredible success from Sochi. Left without its two star skiers, it is mostly counting on its ski jumpers and biathlete Jakov Fak.

The Olympics four years ago were by far the most successful in the country's history. The now retired Tina Maze won two golds in skiing, ski jumper Peter Prevc and snowboarder Žan Košir secured a silver and bronze each, and two more bronze medals went to cross country skier Vesna Fabjan and biathlete Teja Gregorin.

The medal tally put Slovenia in 16th place among the participating countries and even second when counting medals per capita.

Expectations are much more modest for PyeongChang, where the skiing team has to make do not only without Maze but also without the injured Ilka Štuhec, who proved Maze's worthy successor in the 2016/2017 season, finishing the World Cup second overall and becoming the downhill world champion.

Slovenian hopes rest on 19-year-old junior slalom world champion Meta Hrovat, who clinched her first podium finish in a World Cup giant slalom in mid-January, and on Ana Bucik, who did the same in an alpine combined event. In the men's team, only Žan Kranjec recorded a top-three result this year.

Hopes for a medal seem more realistic in ski jumping. While the form of Slovenia's biggest champion Peter Prevc has not been spectacular, he was one of three Slovenians with podium results this season.

Jernej Damjan and Anže Semenič each won an event, but they have also been fluctuating. There is also the team event, where the Slovenians will undoubtedly be a team to reckon with.

Meanwhile, with Teja Gregorin suspended for doping, the burden of expectations in biathlon is on Jakov Fak, a three-time podium finisher this season.

The 30-year-old, who already has an Olympic bronze medal from Vancouver in 2010 when he still competed for Croatia, saw his form decline in the second part of the season, but he says he has been working hard in recent weeks.

Cross country skier Fabjan, who will be the bearer of the Slovenian flag at the opening ceremony, has been far from her Sochi form this year, and so has snowboarder Košir, although he also raised some eyebrows in the World Cup with the fastest qualifying time on two occasions.

Slovenia's most flamboyant athlete Filip Flisar, the giant moustache-sporting world champion from 2015, also only managed one 7th place this season.

Meanwhile, the most numerous Slovenian Winter Olympics delegation so far, managed by former ski jumping world champion Franci Petek, also includes the men's ice-hockey team, which will be making its second Olympic appearance after a spectacular 7th place in Sochi.

Also in PyeongChang is Tilen Sirša, who will make for Slovenia's first ever Olympic luge appearance and raise the total number of sports featuring Slovenian athletes to nine. Slovenia will also have two competitors in Nordic combined.

Slovenian Olympic Committee boss Bogdan Gabrovec has defended the size of delegation in the face of poor medal prospects by pointing to the size of the hockey team and to the need to also have "a development approach".

Gabrovec would not make any projections regarding the results, but announced "we'll be joyful in any case".

"Fact is that we've had good performances in all disciplines ... and I'm convinced the form timing will be such as to secure the best results at the Olympics," he said, arguing that every top-ten result was a major achievement, not just a medal.

While Slovenia was without an official meeting spot in Sochi, the Slovenia House in South Korea will open this Saturday, located only a stone's throw from the Olympic village of Alpensia.

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