Brnik – The Slovenian men’s basketball team returned to the homeland on Sunday afternoon after winning the 4th place at the Summer Olympics. They were greeted at Ljubljana airport by some 500 fans and senior sport officials, who expressed gratitude for the unbelievable result for the team that made its Olympic debut in Tokyo.
The team is finally home after being absent from Slovenia for a month and a half, as it also had to play an Olympic qualifying tournament in Lithuania, where they defeated the heavily favoured hosts.
Slovenian Olympic Committee president Bogdan Gabrovec was among the first to congratulate the basketball players, saying it was difficult to find an expression to “describe my gratitude for your performances and results.”
Everybody who had been thinking about a medal needs to be aware how difficult this is. Australia needed sixty years for its first,” he said about Slovenia’s opponent in the bronze-medal match, which Australia won on Saturday 107:93.
Slovenian Basketball Association president Matej Erjavec added that he believed that “three beautiful summers are ahead of us. The EuroBasket will be played next year, the World Cup in 2023 and then the Summer Olympics in Paris.”
Head coach Aleksander Sekulić and the team’s superstar Luka Dončić addressed the press, with the former saying that no one had imagined that Slovenia would be vying for top spots when the team had gathered ahead of the qualifying tournament.
“Unfortunately, we fell short of a medal, although we have deserved it given what we have shown. We missed on a little bit of sport luck. Nevertheless, the lads have written a beautiful story, and they deserve all the praise,” he added.
Dončić, who is expected to sign a new, five-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks in Ljubljana on Tuesday, said that the initial disappointment with the team missing out on a medal had waned off.
“We are now gradually starting to realise that we are the fourth best team in the world. This doesn’t happen every day,” the 22-year-old said.
“We have learned a lot and in three years there will be new Olympics. We are a young team and this is only the beginning of our path. We will be playing every competition with full strength as we want new successes,” Dončić added.