STA, 14 December 2021 - Sport climber Janja Garnbret, cyclist Tadej Pogačar and the national men's basketball team have fetched the main accolades at the 2021 Athlete of the Year ceremony on Monday evening.
In the women's category, Garnbret convincingly won the poll conducted by the Association of Sport Journalists among 115 reporters for her third accolade as the woman's athlete of the year, after 2018 and 2019.
The Tokyo Olympic gold medal winner collected 333 points to be followed by judoka Tina Trstenjak (129), the silver medallist in the women's 63kg category in Tokyo, and ski jumper Nika Križnar (77), the overall World Cup winner last season.
"Janja Garnbret is barely 22 years old and she is already the most successful sport climber in history. She also moves milestones in climbing in natural climbing sites. She is the best sport climber in the world," the association said.
Garnbret said that it was "really not the first time, but I always feel great when I receive the title of the athlete of the year. It's nice that people recognise and see this, get you recognised. This is why this title means a lot to me."
Pogačar, who won his second consecutive Tour de France this year and grabbed bronze in the road race at the Summer Olympics, topped the vote in the men's category with 262 points for his first Athlete of the Year title.
He was followed by the fellow cyclist Primož Roglič (218), who won the gold medal in Tokyo in time trial, and defended his 2020 victory in the race around Spain this year, and NBA superstar Luka Dončić of the Dallas Mavericks (97).
It was Dončić who led the Slovenian team to the fourth place in Tokyo, a result that earned it the accolade of the team of the year in this year's Athlete of the Year campaign. They got 66 votes ahead of the men's volleyball team (37).
"Tadej Pogačar is so important a figure in the cycling world that he has earned contract with the UAE team until 2027. We can understand his bosses. Without a sliver of doubt, he is currently the best cyclist in the world," the association said.
Pogačar told the press conference ahead of the ceremony that it was "really a prestigious award, in particular in such a year as this year. When you receive such an award in your own country, then it's icing on the cake."
As for the basketball team, the association said that the "semi-finals of the Olympic tournament is an achievement that could be compared to the European champions title. We are convinced that this team will brings us many a joy in the future."