Tokyo – Slovenian athletes participating in the 32nd Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo have won three gold medals, the largest number at any Olympics, summer or winter, since independence. With three golds, one silver and one bronze, the medal tally is the best for Slovenia at Summer Games yet.
The tally places Slovenia 7th in medals per capita among the 93 countries that won at least one medal in Tokyo, the same spot as in Rio in 2016, and the 4th in golds won per capita. Overall, Slovenia placed 31st most successful country at the Games.
Since the Barcelona Games in 1992, the first after Slovenia gained independence in 1991, the country has won eight golds in eight Summer Olympic Games, along with nine silver and 11 bronze medals.
Canoeist Benjamin Savšek, rider Primož Roglič and sport climber Janja Garnbret became Olympic champions at the latest Games, with judoka Tina Trstenjak adding silver and rider Tadej Pogačar bronze to the tally.
Team Slovenia in Tokyo numbered 54 athletes, the lowest number in the Summer Games since 1996, even though the men’s national basketball team made its debut appearance.
However, given the excellent showings by Slovenian athletes in the run-up to the Games, the expectations were running high and Team Slovenia were quick to deliver.
Pogačar, coming from Paris where he won the Tour de France for a second year in a row as the youngest double winner, secured Slovenia’s first medal in Tokyo, winning bronze in the men’s road cycling race.
His teammate, Roglič, who had to quit Tour early due to injury, bounced back from trouble and ill fortune accompanying him for a while, to win the men’s time trial to prove Slovenia’s dominance in cycling, outperforming the field by more than a minute.
It was Savšek who secured Slovenia’s fist gold at the Tokyo Games, convincingly wining the men’s C-1 slalom with a flawless performance for Slovenia’s first whitewater gold after silver medals won by Andraž Vehovar in Atlanta in 1996 and Peter Kauzer in Rio in 2016.
Pressure has not broken the defending Olympic judo champion in the women’s 63kg category, Tina Trstenjak, who took silver after conceding to her friend and rival Clarisse Agbegnenou of France in what was a replay of the gold medal match from the previous Games only with a different outcome.
After the duel, Agbegnenou hoisted Trstenjak into the air as embraced in tears of joy the pair sent out a message that despite fierce battles it is possible to foster a genuine friendship in sport.
The pressure of expectations was even heavier on the shoulder of Janja Garnbret, the sport climber who has been dominating the sports for years, in the Olympic premiere for the sport.
The 22-year-old kept her focus and overcame all the obstacles to make history by winning the combined event by sweeping the field in bouldering and lead and setting a new national record in speed.
It was the men’s basketball team who sought to add the icing on the cake of Slovenian achievements in Tokyo in their debut Olympic appearance. But even if they failed to bring a medal back home, they too made history by making it to the semi-finals of the Olympic tournament.
Powered by the NBA star Luka Dončić, and led by head coach Aleksander Sekulić, the team cruised to the semi-finals without losing a single game, demonstrating an amazing team spirit and bringing the nation together to cheer them even at the earliest morning hours.
Slovenia missed the finals only by a whisker, losing 89:90 to France, a disappointment that played a major part in them losing the bronze medal match to Australia and their top scorer Patty Mills (93:107) to finish four overall.
There were some disappointments. Slovenia had expected a medal from discus thrower Kristjan Čeh, following his impressive performance in the run-up to the Games as he crossed the 70-metre mark. He had to settle for 5th spot this time but the 22-year-old will have more opportunities yet.
Maruša Mišmaš Zrimšek exceeded the expectations by placing 6th in the women’s 3000 metre steeplechase, while Tina Šutej placed fifth in the women’s pole vault.
Sailors Tina Mrak and Veronika Macarol finished fifth in the women’s 470 class, while flatwater kayakers Špela Ponomarenko Janić and Anja Osterman, who were also considered contenders for a medal, had a major mishap as their kayak capsized shortly before the finish line in the women’s K-2 semi-finals.
In table tennis, Darko Jorgić made it to the quarter finals in the men’s singles in an upset defeat for Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto, in what is the best Olympic result in the sport for Slovenia.
Shooter Živa Dvoršak made it to the finals of the rifle three position, finishing 7th overall.
Bogdan Gabrovec, the president of the Slovenian Olympic Committee, has assessed Slovenia’s performance at the games as excellent, although he has also told the STA it will be hard to repeat the achievements without proper financial support.
Similarly, Miroslav Cerar, the head of the Slovenian Olympic delegation who won his first of the two Olympic gold medals in the pommel horse in Tokyo in 1964, believes Slovenia can be pleased with excellent results. “Not just the medals, all the achievements deserve respect,” the 81-year-old said.