Despite cautious optimism before the Olympic Games in Turin, Slovenia did not manage to win a medal, which caused a lively debate in the media. “Miracles do happen but not very often. Many other countries had similar problems,” commented skiing guru Tone Vogrinec.
Eight Seconds to a Medal
However, the prevailing opinion is that this is the reality for Slovenia. Three six places (Petra Majdic in cross-country skiing, Dejan Kosir in snowboarding and the women’s biathlon relay team) were the best Slovenia could do. The only title was in the unofficial beauty contest opinion poll by an Italian newspaper where Tina Maze was voted “Miss Oympics.” However, the long awaited giant slalom proved to be a disaster. Maze, the Slovene athlete who stood the best chance of winning a medal at the Games, obviously could not stand up to the pressure. She finished 12th, and was even beaten by her team mate Ana Drev, who finished ninth. Before and after the event she was criticised by the media for not being very open and communicative with the journalists. The cross-country skier Petra Majdic gave the most praised performance, finishing in sixth place in the 10 km run, only eighth seconds behind the bronze medallist. Considered a favourite to win a medal, she had tears in her eyes after the race, explaining that if the weather conditions had deteriorated she would have had a much better chance because apparently she had great skis for dry snow. She was equally unfortunate in the 30 km run where she fell after hitting a man standing on the course and was unable to re-join the leading group, eventually finishing 14th. In the sprint event she came in 8th. The struggling men’s alpine ski team, once the winter sports leader in Slovenia, lamented over a missed opportunity by Andrej Sporn in the combined event. He finished an excellent 7th in the downhill portion but made an irreparable mistake during the slalom. Kosir and Koblar cause controversy The Slovenian team’s experience at the Games was marred by two incidents, both in connection with the selection of athletes for the team. Jure Kosir’s story attracted more attention than any other event when he was not included in the slalom team. “The criteria had not been made clear to us in advance. We didn’t know what counted towards a place on the Olympic team: was it World Cup scores only or also practice runs? There was no communication and we learned things only from newspapers,” said Kosir, who had announced before the games that this was going to be his last season. After the disappointment in Turin he decided to end his career prematurely (see separate story on last page) and refused to participate in the remaining three World Cup events. Andreja Koblar was similarly confused and bitter when she was left off the biathlon team. “I have experienced such treatment ever since Jure Velepec took over the leadership. I just know that I deserved a place on the team because Andreja Mali was in no better shape than me,” said the winner of three World Cup events. Back home, the Olympic team was received by the Minister of Education, Milan Zver, who said that medals are not everything: “It is important that you performed well and represented the country in the best possible way.” Janez Kocjancic, the president of the Olympic Committee added that Slovenia will prove again that it is a leading country in terms of winter sports. The only practical problem from the “poor” results might emerge in the following months when sponsorship contracts will be (or not be) renewed and financial terms will be negotiated.