26 Aug 2020, 13:36 PM

STA, 25 August 2020 - Slovenian mountain runner Luka Kovačič has accomplished a new feat by climbing the five highest mountains in Slovenia in less than 14 hours, by his own account.

The three-time winner of the race up the Planica ski flying hill managed to climb Visoki Rokav (2,646m), Škrlatica (2,740m), Triglav (2,864m), Jalovec (2,645m) and Mangart (2,679m) in north-western Slovenia.

Kovačič initially thought he would need a whole 24 hours for the feat, so he even surprised himself by climbing the five mountains in one go in 13 hours and 56 minutes.

A part of the run on Škrlatica took place on a very rocky terrain, which required alpine climbing abilities.

"I have been dreaming for a long time about connecting these mountains in one day. I wondered if it is possible in 24 hours and now I managed it in less than 14 hours," he said.

Kovačič climbed 6,600 metres overall, and covered 55 kilometres, of which 43 kilometres was mountain paths and rocks, seven kilometres was macadam and five kilometres paved road.

This was the day when I wasn't competing, I was just transforming my dreams into reality. It was a long day, but I...

Posted by Luka Kovačič on Tuesday, 25 August 2020

The first three hours he ran in complete darkness, while during individual stages he was accompanied by colleague who provided him with morale. His girlfriend Urška Ahac also provided support during one stage.

"Perhaps the toughest part was the climb to Jalovec, in the middle of the day, when it became really hot and there was no wind at all. But I beat the crisis and everything went better than expected thereafter.

"I can tell with full honesty that I enjoyed the entire 14 hours," added the extreme athlete who trains more than 900 hours a year.

"A project such as this requires a complete person, who can stay focused for the entire 14 hours despite the physical intensity. This is not possible without an exceptional physical fitness," he concluded.

09 Aug 2020, 21:22 PM

STA, 9 August 2020 - Slovenian cyclist Primož Roglič of the Dutch team Team Jumbo-Visma won the three-stage Tour de l'Ain race in France on Sunday in what is seen as a dress rehearsal for Tour de France.

What is usually a smaller race in France this year attracted the strongest teams because of the coronavirus pandemic and the related changes to the schedule of the races. After 34 kilometres, the route turned to what will be the route of the 107th Tour de France on 13 September, at the end of the second week of the three-week prestigious competition.

Roglič finished seconded in the first stage of Tour de l'Ain on Friday, but then proved his supremacy on Saturday and Sunday.

On Friday, the 139-kilometre, mostly plain route was not cut out for Roglič, and he was forced to admit defeat to Italy's Andreo Bagioli, while Swiss Stefan Bissegger was third.

But Saturday's more diverse 140.5-kilometre race between Lagnieu and Lelex Monts-Jura allowed him to beat Columbian Egana Bernal(Ineos), while Italian Valerio Conti was third.

In today's final stage, the 144.5-kilometre race between Saint-Vulbas and the Grand Colombier, Roglič overtook Bernal and his fellow Colombian Nairo Quintana (Arkea Samsic) while climbing the Grand Colombier. Roglič was four seconds faster than Bernal, and six seconds faster than Quintana.

The cyclists remained in that order overall as well. Overall, Roglič beat Bernal and Quintana by 18 and 28 seconds, respectively.

"Today was hard too. The Ineos team made sure the challenge was really hard with a strong rhythm uphill. But our team did an excellent job again, so I could finish successfully," Roglič said, adding his mind was already on Tour de France.

"My main ambition at the Tour will be to place as high as possible there, to grow together with my team, and to do our job the best we can. That's the main goal," Roglič said.

27 Jul 2020, 12:09 PM

STA, 27 July 2020 - Slovenian ultra cyclist Marko Baloh has set a new 1,000-km time trial world record with 28 hours, 50 minutes and 14 seconds, bicycle maker Spiegel Bikes reported on its Instagram on Monday. Baloh failed to smash the 24-hour record though.

The 53-year-old started chasing a number of world records in Dobrovnik in north-east Slovenia on Saturday.

He bagged the major one, the 1,000-km record, whereas Austrian Christoph Strasser remains the person who has ridden the longest distance on a road bike in 24 hours (896.2 km); Baloh managed 865.3 km in a day.

Apart from the 1,000-km record, the Slovenian endurance cyclist also beat the 100-km, 200-km and 300-km fastest times.

Since the 2020 cycling season saw no races until late June due to coronavirus, Baloh decided to tackle smashing world records after ten years of putting that on hold for racing.

In 2008, Baloh had already set a world record at an outdoor velodrome and he topped that feat by becoming a record-holder at an indoor cycling track in 2010. That year he also became the first person to have ridden more than 900 km in 24 hours (903.75 km).

03 Jul 2020, 14:46 PM

STA, 3 July - Slovenian NBA star Luka Dončić recently held his first news conference after the Covid-19 pandemic. He said in a videoconference that he was in good shape and could not wait to return to the court. He highlighted the role US Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda C. Blanchard played in helping him return to his homeland during the outbreak.

The 21-year-old returned to Dallas, Texas almost two weeks ago to start preparing for a tentative comeback of the 2019-2020 NBA season after spending lockdown in Slovenia. The NBA is expected to resume on 30 July.

"The league is doing all it can to make sure that all the participants would not feel any consequences. Every two days we are tested and everyone is taking care of our health," Dončić said.

He has never considered sitting out the season; he missed basketball a lot and just wants to play, he told the reporters, adding that he had full trust in the NBA system but was of course concerned about the situation as much as the next person.

Recently there was a misunderstanding regarding his shape which raised some dust in the US sports world - Dončić's personal trainer was mistranslated as saying the NBA star had gained some weight during his two months in Slovenia.

Dončić dismissed any such rumours, highlighting he was in good shape and would only get better when the season restarted.

The 2018-2019 NBA Rookie of the Year told the press that he maintained his shape during lockdown by playing tennis and football. He was glad he could spend some time with his friends and family in Slovenia and again thanked the US ambassador for helping him make that happen as well as for assisting him in returning back to the US.

The Dallas Mavericks small forward will be soon experiencing another lockdown, an NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida where NBA players are to be isolated from the rest of the world. The Dallas Mavericks are eyeing the playoffs, with Dončić saying that their chemistry would only grow.

The NBA star used the time in Slovenia to heal the minor injuries he was struggling with prior to the season suspension. "I think the break helped. I think a lot of people had some small injuries, they weren't 100%."

"Obviously the [hardest] thing for me was not being able to play basketball," he replied about being asked about the biggest quarantine challenges.

Before the corona suspension, Dončić had an average of 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game.

05 Jun 2020, 13:20 PM

STA, 5 June 2020 - The national football championship will resume on Friday after being on hold for almost three months due to the coronavirus outbreak, albeit without spectators. All first league players have tested negative for Covid-19 and are ready to go, but it is expected that they will need a game or two to return to top form.

Entering the pitch first today will be players of Aluminij and Mura, and this match will be followed by a Celje-Rudar encounter in the evening.

The national championship was halted in mid-March after 25 out of the 36 scheduled matches played. Olimpija Ljubljana leads the standings with 50 points, ahead of Celje and Aluminij (45 each). The defending champions Maribor are fourth at 43 points.

Olimpija's Ante Vukušić, who is tied at the top of the scorer standings this season, has told the STA that the team is getting back in shape and that it would need a game or two to get to the top of its game.

The Croatian believes that Celje is the top contender for the title. "They have played well, and the coach has constructed the team very well. They are difficult to play," he said, adding that the other competitors were close as well.

"Maribor has gotten an injection of fresh blood with the new coach and director of football and will be very motivated. But all is up to us and I think there will be no major problems," Vukušić believes.

"We have shown the most so far. We have the best starting line-up in the country. I don't underestimate anyone but we know that we have the quality to win it all," he added.

The schedule is complete and matches in the first league are expected to conclude on 22 July, followed by the play-off matches for the survival in the elite division and/or advancement from the second division.

The national cup competition will resume next week. The cup semi-finals will be played on 9 and 10 June, and the final on 24 June, all of them on the neutral pitch of the National Football Centre in Brdo pri Kranju, also without spectators.

The second league for men and the first league for women had been ended in mid-May.

To be promoted from the second league is Koper, the club which topped the standings before the epidemic. The second-placed Gorica will enter play-offs with the club which finishes ninth in the premier league.

The women's premier league ended without the official champion declared. The decision on which club will represent Slovenia in European competitions in the next season will be based on past results.

18 May 2020, 14:53 PM

STA, 18 May 2020 - Marko Elsner, one of the greatest Slovenian football players of all time, has died at the age of 60 after battling a severe illness for several years. One of his finest moments was winning an Olympic bronze medal with the Yugoslav team in 1984.

Born in Ljubljana in 1960, Elsner first played for the youth team of the Austrian club Wacker Innsbruck before returning to the home town to play with Slovan and then joining Olimpija Ljubljana in 1977.

In 1983, he was signed on by the Yugoslav powerhouse Red Star Belgrade and played with them four seasons. In this period he became a national team player, and was part of the Yugoslav team at the 1984 Olympics, winning the bronze medal.

The feisty defender went international in 1987, when he was acquired by Nice, playing a total of 105 games for the French club and scoring six goals. He returned to Austria in 1990 and finished his career in France in 1993.

Elsner played for the Yugoslav national team in 1984-1988, earning 14 caps, and also for the Slovenian team after the nation gained independence, making two caps - against Cyprus in November 1992 and against Estonia in April 1993.

He came from a football family, with his late father Branko Elsner (1929-2012) being one of the best Slovenian football coaches and officials.

His brother Brane was a long-serving member of the Slovenian Football Association, and his elder son Luka was the first Slovenian to be appointed the head coach of a club in the French top football league (Amiens).

14 May 2020, 10:47 AM

STA, 13 May 2020 - The government decided on Wednesday to allow a majority of sports activities to resume as of 23 May, including practices and recreation in indoor facilities, and trainings and competitions in team sports.

The decree does not apply to fitness and wellness centres and swimming pools, with the exception for the latter applying to registered athletes, government spokesman Jelko Kacin told the STA, adding that outdoor water sports, for example rowing, would also be allowed.

Prime Minister Janez Janša tweeted earlier in the day that competitions in team sports would be allowed to resume on 23 May.

Commenting on the decision, Slovenian Football Association (NZS) president Radenko Mijatović said this was a "great relief for football and sport in general". He added that the NZS was planning to organise the first matches in June.

"We have already had talks with clubs, and their wish was that at least four weeks of practice are held before the first official matches. This means that we plan to organise them in the first or second week of June," he told the STA.

"This decision means a lot for football in Slovenia from the competition aspect, as we the [national] champion and participants in European competitions will be decided on the pitch," Mijatović added.

On Monday, the NZS decided to continue with the premier league and the national cup for men, depending on the situation related to the epidemic, while ending the second league for men and the first league for women.

Registered athletes in individual sports are already allowed to train in outdoor facilities, with the exception of facilities belonging to educational institutions, and to participate in competitions up to the national level.

As of 23 May, team competitions and practices in facilities belonging to educational institutions will also be allowed, as well as extracurricular sport education of children and youth.

All activities must be carried out in adherence to public health rules issued and without spectators.

12 May 2020, 12:10 PM

STA, 11 May 2022 - Tone Škarja, a professional climber considered one of the pillars of Slovenian mountaineering, has died. The 83-year-old, famous for numerous challenging expeditions, was also a mountain guide, author and photographer.

His death was confirmed on Monday by Matjaž Šerkezi of the Slovenian Alpine Association (PZS).

Škarja, who had been a member of the organisation since 1951, started pursuing mountaineering professionally in 1956. He completed more than 1,000 alpine ascents, including participating in more than 30 trailblazing expeditions.

The 83-year-old was also part of the Yugoslavian Mount Everest expedition in 1979. The mostly Slovenian team scaled the world's highest peak by climbing the western ridge, still unexplored by then.

Later that year, Škarja received the Bloudek Award, Slovenia's most prestigious sports accolade, for the achievement. Together with another legendary climber, Aleš Kunaver, who passed away in the 1980s, he led the successful expedition, the PZS organisation said.

Škarja was also the head of the Kamnik mountain rescue team as well as the chairman of the PZS commission of foreign expeditions. Moreover, he was vice-president of the association between 1998 and 2011.

The Slovenian segment of the Nepal International Mountain Museum was set up and managed by Škarja.

Viki Grošelj, a climber who has scaled the most eight-thousanders among the Slovenian mountaineering elite and the first Slovenian to have climbed the highest summits of all the continents, has responded to today's sad news by highlighting the important role Škarja played in promoting Slovenia's mountaineering and raising it to the highest level.

"I was deeply hurt and shaken by the news of his death, but not completely unprepared since Škarja had been ill for quite some time," Grošelj said, adding that the departed was a mentor and a role model to numerous generations of climbers.

All our stories on mountaineering in Slovenia are here

20 Mar 2020, 10:49 AM

If you’re a regular reader of TSN, or visitor to Slovenia, you’re no doubt aware of this country’s outsized reputation and achievements with regard to alpinism, a story told in the wonderful Alpine Warriors, which follows the two or three generations of Slovenian climbers who came to prominence in the 1960s to 1990s. These athletes were key players in the dramatic changes overtaking the sport of alpinism as it evolved from a nationalist, state-sponsored activity to a more individual and commercialised one, with documentaries, energy bars and branded jackets, not to mention the opening of Everest to weekend climbers and those in mid-life crises. The same years saw a move from huge, months-long siege-style expedition climbs with dozens of high altitude porters and tons of equipment, to the light and fast style that at its most extreme ends up in solo ascents with only what you can carry in a backpack, up and down mountain in a few days. The idea being that the faster you move, the less danger you’re exposed to in terms of the elements.

One of the names in that book, a controversial one, is Tomo Česen, the father of Aleš Česen, who in August 2018 was part of a Slovenian-British expedition that also featured Luka Stražar and Tom Livingston. The trio became the first to conquer the north face of Latok I (7,145 meters), part of the central Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan, and at the time widely viewed as the most coveted prize in high-altitude climbing. It was a feat that won them the 2019 Piolet d'Or, the top award in mountaineering.

Luckily for armchair adventurers, their ascent was captured on video, with the footage shot by the three climbers, along with Urška Pribošič and Jure Niedorfer, with the latter pair also responsible for editing and post-production work. Even luckier, the whole thing is on Vimeo, and you can see it below.

LATOK 1 from Jure Niedorfer on Vimeo.

18 Mar 2020, 20:21 PM

Among other things, Noah Charney is the author of Slovenology, which you can get a paper or ebook copy of so you can enjoy Slovenia wherever you are 

Back in 2015, I wrote an article for the American magazine, The Atlantic, introducing American readers to someone who was arguably the greatest skier in history: Tina Maze. That was during her epic season, in which she accumulated more points than anyone, male or female, ever had, and it was prior to her Sochi Olympics success. Americans don’t follow skiing and so had to have explained to them both what the sport is and who Tina Maze is. I helped them imagine her dominance in skiing through a parallel they would understand: I likened her to Michael Jordan.

Well, now there’s another Slovenian athlete who can only be liked to Michael Jordan and LeBron James, the two greatest basketball players of all time. Basketball has pulled ahead of both baseball and football as the most popular sport in America, so Americans need no introduction to it. Nor do they need an introduction to the athlete in question.

I’ll confess that I love a man named Luka. It’s a platonic love, but it’s a type of love all the same. Luka Dončič, whom I’ve never met, brings sunshine and joy into my life. When he performs well, my day is brighter. When he has an off night (or if, as is the case while I’m writing this, he’s nursing an ankle injury), I’m a little bluer and a little distracted. My wife and I share this affection, and I’m comfortable that she loves someone else in this way. In fact, millions do, not only Mavericks fans. Luka has a euphoria about him that is infectious. So many athletes, no matter how good, seem in it for the money. Luka is making tons of it, of course, but he has a childlike enthusiasm, a levity that is spreads to those who see him play. That is not what we expect from professional top athletes.

Luka has dominated headlines as much as he has dominated the courts on which he has played. His comparable statistics at age 20 are in line only with Jordan and James. If he continues at this level, barring catastrophic injury and even without improving (as he surely will with experience), then by the time he retires, he will be remembered as the greatest. His talent, numbers and command are already there. He out-LeBron-ed LeBron James, his childhood idol, a few games back, leading his Dallas Mavericks to victory over the first-place, James-led Lakers. His Mavericks are, amazingly, currently the best offensive team in NBA history, and that is without the co-headlining star, Latvian “unicorn” Kristaps Porzingis, playing particularly well, and without a third All-Star player—just Luka and a very deep, talented, balanced team. All Luka needs to do is to avoid a freak injury and keep on going. The smart money is on him, in a decade or so, being dubbed the best basketball player in history.

He is just 20 years old but, having played with Real Madrid in the Euro League (the second-best league in the world after the NBA) for years prior to being drafted by the Mavericks a year ago, he has the experience and calm on the court of a veteran. In the US, he cannot even order a beer (you must be 21 to drink alcohol there), but he is blazing statistical trails and has drawn effusive praise from players and commentators across the board. Last season, his rookie year, he came in second in All-Star votes, behind only LeBron. That popularity comes from a combination of his skill and domination, mixed with that joy. He is totally unpretentious and humble, while totally confident (a rare combination among top athletes). He is clearly having fun. It’s easy to forget that professional athletes are grownups being paid huge sums of money to play games. It’s a pretty sweet deal. Baseball star Willie Mays is credited with a quote that getting paid to play baseball is like getting paid to eat ice cream. Luka might say something similar about basketball. And the fun he is having is passed forward to his fans. That is why he has admirers far beyond the followers of his team.

I’m inordinately proud of our Slovenian athletes. I often hear “considering how small a nation we are” as the precursor to “we’re remarkably good at sports,” and it’s true. Slovenia has a miniscule pool of citizens to draw from and relatively poor resources to support them, when compared to other countries, yet still we produce world-class athletes, Olympians, record holders, gold medalists. We are underdogs due to our size and budgets, and still we win, against the odds. This makes us a joy to cheer for. At the moment, Luka is at the summit of a sport which Europeans are not supposed to be as good at as Americans (especially white Europeans). That compounds Luka’s success and elevates it.

For us fans, this special type of love for an athlete we’ve never met is a strange but wonderful cocktail. There’s pride mixed in (for an underdog from Slovenia), hope (we want him to do well and check news on him constantly), sympathy (we feel down when he is down, we feel on a high when he succeeds), and a sense of good fortune. How lucky we are that we get to watch this sporting genius, already seemingly at the peak of his powers and the zenith of the game, but only 20 years old, and capable of playing, even improving, over the next 10-15 years.

How often can someone we’ve never met, who lives thousands of kilometers away, bring us such joy? Grab your Dončič jerseys and enjoy the ride. It will be a long and glorious one.

A Slovene version of this article first appeared in Playboy. Noah Charney lives in Italy and Slovenia, and lectures internationally in the subjects of art history and art crime. Learn more at or join him on Facebook. You can also follow the Slovenoogy podcast wherever you get podcasts, with the iTunes link here. The book Slovenology can be found here.

11 Mar 2020, 09:25 AM

Planica, the highlight of the season may be closed to spectators due to coronavirus, but ski jumpers are continuing to jump, and Slovenians are still making the podium.

Yesterday, in Lillehammer, Poland's Kamil Stoch took first place in the Raw Air Tournament,  with jumps of 131.5 m and 139.5 m and 264.3 points, while Žiga Jelar was second (259 points) and Timi Zajc third (257.6). Not in the top three, but adding the team’s overall results, was Monday’s winner, Peter Prevc, in fifth place (253.6 points).

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