Judoka Velenšek wins medal against all odds
"What I'm experiencing right now cannot be described," said the winner of Slovenia's third medal in Rio after beating Luise Mahlzahn of Germany in the third-place match on Thursday.
Velenšek entered the Olympics with torn ligaments in her knee and had to change her fighting style and rely more on her arms than legs.
"It was hard today because of the psychological pressure, as I did not know if the knee would hold on. I went for all or nothing, fight after fight, and it eventually paid dividends," said the 25-year-old.
Urška Žolnir, the gold medallist in the women's 63kg category in London in 2012, said that "Ana showed courage, competitiveness and the will to win despite injury. This is how you fight, this is how you get to the Olympic Games and how you get the job done."
She also praised her former coach and Velenšek's current coach Marjan Fabjan for finding a way again to push his proteges beyond all limits and get a medal.
"Marjan knows how it's done, but the competitor too needs to have the willpower and follow his instructions," said the current coach of the men's Olympic judo team.
Žolnir herself battled with injuries and had to end her career after a knee surgery. "It is possible to fight with an injury. The risk is great, but if you are determined, you can overcome anything," said the most successful Slovenian jodoka at the Olympics.
Coach Fabjan, whose fighters have already won five Olympic medals, is often criticised for being too harsh and demanding, has again proven the critics wrong.
He insisted on Velenšek participating at the Olympics despite medical examinations showing that the injury was so severe that it required surgery.
"They claimed that surgery was inevitable and that it was the end. I promised all the experts that she would fight...and not only that she would fight, but that she would be vying for a medal," Fabjan said.