The Slovenia Times

Patience, please!



ar when Klemen Bergant took over the national team, continued over the Summer. Some established skiers ended their careers, some were badly injured and have just recently re-started training while others have simply dropped down the rankings. Therefore, it is difficult to make predictions as to who stands the best chance this season, which started on October 25 at S"lden, Austria, and will continue, in late November. If people on the street were asked to name the current members of the national team they probably wouldn't be able to give the right answer. It is clear that the whole team is in the painful process of re-building and nobody knows how long it will last. Out of the legendary women's team, popularly referred to as "the devils from Slovenia", only Mojca Suhadolc will continue this season. She was badly injured last year but she clearly has the potential, which she showed on several occasions before the injury. However, the greatest burden probably lies on Tina Maze, who won the first event of the season least year, but failed to repeat the success later on in the season. The women's coach Rasto Aznoh warned against too high expectations: "The girls are still very young, let's just be patient and I am strongly convinced that they will show sooner or later what they are capable of." With Jure Kosir struggling last year, Mitja Kunc is supposed to be the natural leader of the men's team. Ales Gorza, who was fifth at the world championship in Switzerland last year, might produce a surprise or two. Mitja Dragsic's hopes are based on the fact that he was Slovenia's best skier in the slalom last year in terms of points scored but he has only just recovered from injury and it remains to be seen how it will affect his performance. Tears for different reasons The summer was unusually turbulent this year. First, Spela Pretnar, 30, announced her retirement at an emotional press conference: "It was a tough and important decision and I took a lot of time before making it." She spent 11 years in the world cup, winning six times and making it to the podium 13 times. She won the overall slalom world cup in 2000 and was third in the giant slalom in 1995. She will now work as a journalist for Pop TV. On the other hand, Alenka Dovzan's tears were much more bitter. She accused some individuals, Klemen Bergant and the coach Rasto Aznoh in particular, of trying to get rid of her by putting her in team B. Aznoh denied this: "She did not make the expected progress last year and this was the sole reason for our decision. Other national teams would do the same thing." Bergant added: "She made it to the top 30 only once last year and this is clearly not enough for an athlete of her profile." Dovzan, 27, and her family opened a business in Jesenice, where they will run a new restaurant. Unlike Dovzan, Jure Kosir, who also had a poor season last year, has decided to stay for at least one more year. "I wouldn't have started training if I hadn't been convinced that I could make it back to the top," said the bronze medallist from the Olympics in Lillehammer. He stressed that the team has changed its approach to training, which has been better and more intense than in previous years. On the other hand, Matjaz Vrhovnik, decided to call it a day. "It was a difficult decision but the injury forced me to do so," said an emotional Vrhovnik, who was third in the overall slalom standings in 2000. He won once and made it to the podium on three other occasions. Uros Pavlovcic has decided to take a sabbatical. His decision was also prompted by an injury in the spring and he will decide next year whether to continue or not. This year he will swap his skis for books and head for Idaho, USA, where he will study ecology. Slovenia will also host two traditional world cup events. The Women's event will take place in Maribor on January 28th and the men will have their competition a month later in Kranjska Gora.


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