Tokyo – Slovenia will be fielding a total of 54 athletes at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, taking place from 23 July to 8 August, including numerous candidates for medals. This is actually the smallest Slovenian team at the Summer Olympics since 1996, even though the men’s national basketball team makes its appearance for the first time.
In 1996 in Atlanta, US, Slovenia fielded 37 athletes, after appearing for the first time as an independent nation in Barcelona in 192 with 35 participants. The largest team was fielded in Athens in 2004 (79).
This year the Summer Olympics will feature the Slovenian men’s basketball team for the first time, headlined by the young NBA superstar Luka Dončić.
Dončić is only one big name from Slovenia coming to Tokyo, as the team features three medal winners from Rio and numerous other favourites in many sports.
Tina Trstenjak will be defending her gold medal in the women’s 63kg category in judo, and at least three others are expected to compete for medals, including Ana Velenšek, the bronze medallist in the women’s 78kg category from Rio.
In kayak/canoe, all eyes will be on Peter Kauzer, who won a silver medal in Brazil four years ago, and the other two whitewater stars – Benjamin Savšek and Eva Terčelj, the latter being the reigning world champion in the women’s K1.
According to pundits, one of the largest medal favourites from Slovenia is sport climber Janja Garnbret, who has been almost unbeatable in international competitions lately in the lead and bouldering disciplines.
Garnbret has also made great progress in speed climbing, and is undoubtedly the main favourite for the win in this new Olympic discipline, while her team mate Mia Krampl will be looking for an opportunity from out of the spotlight.
A chapter of its own is cycling, where Slovenia will be represented by four cyclists, including the recent double Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar, and his older compatriot Primož Roglič, also one of the best world cyclists at the moment.
On the other hand, golfer Pia Babnik, who scored the first Slovenian win at the Ladies European Tour in June, will represent Slovenia in golf, while in athletics the country counts the most on the young discus thrower Kristjan Čeh.
While Slovenia is fielding the men’s basketball team for the first time at the Olympics, it would not be surprising if the team ends up competing for medals, as it cruised to an Olympic berth at a recent qualifying tournament in Lithuania.
Kayaker Terčelj and table tennis player Bojan Tokić will bear the Slovenian flag at the opening ceremony, with the former saying that the task was difficult, while also being a great joy and honour.
“I am honoured, but it is also a great responsibility to bear the flag and representing Slovenia and its colours there. I will give my best for this task and enjoy this special event,” Terčelj added.
According to the Associated Press, Slovenia is projected to win seven medals at the Olympics, including one gold, by Janja Garnbret in sport climbing.