The Slovenia Times

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Over the past few years, it often seemed that the competitors were to blame for Slovenia's poor results in Alpine skiing. But it has now become obvious that problems go much deeper. Boris Strel, who won Slovenia's first world championship medal back in 1982, compares the organisational situation to that in the 1960... with the difference that it is worse now.
"The Slovene Ski Association should have reorganised 10 years ago," he believes. According to him, it is difficult to predict how it will do so now, when times are much more difficult. With its EUR 10 million budget, the Ski Association is still one of the richest sports organisations in Slovenia. The real problem is the lack of young talents, which many believe is related to a lack of competent coaches, at least at the top level. Slovenia used to have a pool of highly respected coaches but those experts have gone on to leave their marks in other national teams around the world. No results mean no sponsors and no money and so it goes.


In attracting young kids, skiing faces strong competition from other sports in a way that it didn't 20 or 30 years ago. Football, basketball, ice-hockey, even handball, rank high among youngsters, who often prefer these relatively cheap activities over the "elitist" sport of skiing.
One of the hottest issues prior to this season was the financial contribution of EUR 5,000 it was argued each member of the national team should give. After tough negotiations, it was agreed that they will pay the money only if and when the team runs out of money.
The grave situation has translated into even poorer results than last year. The season opener in Sölden, Austria, was a disaster for the men's team. With the exception of the downhill team they decided not to travel to the North American part of the World Cup, which has never happened in recent history. Even the downhill squad, which has been the only bright spot during the last couple of years, failed to impress in their season-opener in Lake Louise. Andrej Šporn and Andrej Jerman, once regular podium contenders, managed no better than 41st and 42nd. Gašper Markič was 14th in the super-G the following day but it remains to be seen whether this was a matter of luck or not.
Mitja Valenčič is a lonely member of the men's so-called technical team with Mitja Dragšič, Bernard Vajdič and Aleš Gorza calling it a day after last year's season. Valenčič will be assisted by Matic Skube, a former junior world champion, who still has to show his potential.
Over at the women's team it's another story. Tina Maze and her private team continued her battle for funds with the Ski Association. She is currently the only woman capable of decent results, aiming at the very top in the overall standings, but the first couple of races were not very promising: her best was 7th place in Aspen. Ana Drev, Mateja Robnik and Ilka Štuhec were merely making up the numbers.

Nordic team

Interestingly, Slovenia's ski jumpers - on the receiving end of criticism for many years - have started the season on a positive note. They finished the opening team event in fifth place, after an excellent performance by Robert Kranjec. His closest companion will be Peter Prevc, who is coming of age and expected to build on the promise he has been showing since his 7th place at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. The opening event also showed signs of progress for Jernej Damjan, a former World Cup winner who has been struggling for several years. The team's optimism is also based on the results of the summer tour in which they finished in 5th place as a team, winning one event and placing in the top ten 12 times.
Cross-country skiing and biathlon are gaining in popularity, thanks in large part to annual World Cup events in Pokljuka and modern training facilities there. Petra Majdič has ended her career but her spirit lives on, at least in the form of her coach Ivan Hudač, who is now in charge of the U-23 team.
That gives some hope for the future of skiing in Slovenia. But if the early season is anything to go by, it is going to be some time before it reaches the heights of old.


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