Cyclist Pogačar and 2004 handball team honoured for sporting achievements

ALTO DA FÓIA, PORTUGAL - FEBRUARY 21: Arrival / Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia and Team UAE - Team Emirates / Celebration / during the 45th Volta ao Algarve, Stage 2 a 187,4 km stage from Almodôvar to Alto Da Fóia 900m / VA / @VAlgarve2019 / on February 21, 2019 in Alto Da Fóia, Portugal. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Ljubljana- Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar and the team that won silver at the 2004 European Men’s Handball Championships were honoured for their international achievements as the Bloudek Prizes, Slovenia’s top sports awards, were handed out in a virtual ceremony on Friday.

His victory in the world’s biggest multiple-stage road cycling race at just 22 years of age catapulted Tadej Pogačar among the world’s biggest cycling stars overnight. He currently ranks second in the UCI rankings, after compatriot Primož Roglič.

Committed to football in his younger age, he was persuaded to switch to cycling by his former coach Miha Koncilija, who was looking for riders for the Rog club. His talent and results soon caught the attention of the UAE Team Emirates, who have signed him until 2024.

He became one of the world’s best young riders in his first race as a professional, the 2019 Tour Down Under in Australia, an accomplishment he followed up the same year by placing third at the Vuelta, his first Grand Tour, with three stage wins and a white jersey.

The national man’s handball team has appeared in 12 European championships, achieving its biggest success at the 2004 championships by winning silver in front of a capacity audience in Ljubljana, having to concede to Germany in the finals.

The medal is deemed the more important because it was the first silver in major team ball sports tournament for Slovenia. The team moreover made the qualifications for the Olympic Games for the second consecutive time.

The prizes for lifetime accomplishments went to long-serving shooting para sport coach Polonca Sladič, and Faculty of Sports professor and gymnastics coach and referee Marjeta Kovač.