This year’s Tour the France ended with drama that will become part of the history of the world’s most important cycling race – and one of the most prestigious global sport events. One of the youngest participants of the race, 21 year old Tadej Pogačar, snatched the overall win from the first favourite and the holder of the yellow jersey Primož Roglič, in a dramatic time trial on the penultimate stage. Pogačar became the youngest winner of the Tour since 1904 and the only racer ever to win “the three jerseys”: yellow for the overall winner, white for the fastest young rider, and polka dot for the best climber. Roglič finished second. Roglič, winner of the 2019 Vuelta, a three-week race across Spain, soon recuperated after the defeat in France and went on to also win this year’s edition of La Vuelta.
Journalists following the race were amazed that a 2 million nation with no pedigree in cycling could dominate the world’s most prestigious race. Soon they discovered that the story does not end with cycling. Slovenia is an established nation both in the alpine and Nordic skiing disciplines. Tina Maze dominated the women’s skiing world cup a few years ago. Peter Prevc is one of the world’s best ski jumpers. The basketball player Luka Dončič was named rookie of the year in the 2018-2019 NBA season – he was also nominated for the All-NBA First Team. Another Slovenian NBA All-Star is Goran Dragič. Slovenia’s national basketball team won gold on Eurobasket 2017 and is regularly among the best in Europe. Slovenia also won medals and titles in handball and volleyball. Ice hockey superstar Anže Kopitar is the captain of one of the leading NHL teams, the Los Angeles Kings. Footballer Jan Oblak, playing for Madrid’s Atletico, is one the best goalkeepers in the world. In November Slovenian freediver Alenka Artnik dived 114 meters deep and set the new women's world record. Janja Garnbret is the world’s leading climber. And so on.
What is behind the success of Slovenia’s athletes? The answer probably lies in work-ethics, in discipline and – finally – in ambition. One could argue that these qualities are not relevant only within the context of sports.
Slovenian cycling prodigy Tadej Pogačar was the youngest winner of the Tour de France since 1904.
Photo: Francediplomatie/Visual Hunt