The Slovenia Times

Vice-President Succeeds Olympic Committee Boss



Gabrovec emerged the winner after two rounds of voting at the OKS assembly featuring delegates form the country's sports associations, securing 89 votes out of 145 against Janković's 51, to become only the second OKS president since Slovenia went independent in 1991.

The run-off was needed after the two front-runners failed to muster an absolute majority in the first round of the secret ballot. Gabrovec won 64 votes, Jankovič 40 and the third candidate, former canoeist Andraž Vehovar, finished with 38 to fall out of contention.

In his acceptance speech, Gabrovec thanked the delegates for showing trust in him, adding: "I see this as a sporting decision". He was congratulated by Janković, who said he "is happy to have been part of the race" and wished the organisation luck under its new boss.

The victory for Gabrovec brings to an end more than three weeks of campaigning to find a successor to Kocijančič, who is widely credited with building Slovenian Olympic sports from scratch into a perennial top-five finisher when measured by medals per capita.

Presenting his bid, Gabrovec said his priority was promoting youth development and ensuring a future for retired athletes in sports either as coaches or experts.

He added that his work in the Judo Association was the best proof that offering strong development for young athletes is the only guarantee for future success.

Mostly ceremonial and lacking a professional pay package, the position carries weight due to the role of the OKS as the umbrella sports body in the country which helps guide the work of various associations and engages stakeholders on key issues related to sport in the country.

The vote was therefore closely watched by the country's top athletes, who expect the position to be filled by a charismatic leader capable of securing financing for sport and standing up for the interests of professional and amateur athletes alike.

Among the key issues for them is regulating the status of top-flight athletes, many of whom are employed by the state as a stop-gap solution to provide them with financial security, and a retirement scheme.

The associations are meanwhile looking for the OKS president to strengthen the financial backbone of sports, as many are struggling with money, by increasing sponsorship and state funding.

With a significant chunk of steady financing coming from taxes on sports betting, a key issue for the future president will be finding a way of regulating foreign online betting sites. Gabrovec said he favoured liberalisation with a good measure of regulation.

He also said his focus will be on providing a strong framework for the various sports associations to build their programmes and have at least basic financial security. "I want to make sure that the case of the Waterpolo Association never happens again," he said in a reference to debts at waterpolo's governing body that have led to its paralysis.

The 61-year-old black-belt judoka had been widely viewed as a natural choice to succeed Kocijančič, after acting as his vice-president for many years.

However, lacking the political clout of Janković, he appeared to stumble somewhat during the campaign despite a successful tenure as president of the Slovenian Judo Association, thereby opening the door for the Ljubljana mayor to mount a serious challenge.

Tapping into his political-savvy, Janković shook up the race with promises of better funding prospects for sports under his watch and bids for major international competitions. He also ate away at Gabrovec's broad support by snaring some of the vice-president's biggest backers among sports officials.

This would prove to be too little, however, as the associations opted for a familiar face in Kocijančič's right-hand man.

In 2012 Gabrovec was the head of the Slovenian Olympic delegation to the London Games, where Slovenia won four medals, a gold, a silver and two bronze. The gold was won by judoka Urška Žolnir.

Meanwhile, the OKC celebrated Kocijančič's achievements during his 23-year tenure today by granting him the status of president emeritus. Accepting the title, Kocijančič said the achievements of the OKS in this time were the result of hard work by the whole team.


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