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Slovenian judo booming after success in London and Rio
16 Aug 2016 09:40
Looking back at the medal table the two medals of Slovenia shine like a diamond. Tina Trstenjak won the only gold medal for her country so far and with the bronze of Ana Velensek judo dominates the three medals in total for Slovenia. Judo clearly delivered again for Slovenia, the tiny young country with just about 2 million people won its second consecutive judo gold. In 2012 Urska Zolnir achieved the golden mission, now the team of Marjan Fabjan won two medals while also Urska Zolnir impressed as men’s coach with the fifth and surprising place for Adrian Gomboc.
In his school in Celje he created the perfect ground for the two medals and previous successes with the Slovenian team. The modest people don’t show of with fancy outings of victory. Just bow and celebrate quietly. Tina Trstenjak defeated Clarisse Agbegnenou of France, both were the huge favourites. Ana Velensek wasn’t after her serious knee injury she sustained at the Training Camp in Castelldefels, many people thought she wouldn’t even make it to the Olympic Games, but Velensek is tough and after her disappointing Olympics in London, she was now one of the medal candidates after two medals in a row at World Championships. No tape available anymore in Rio after they wrapped in Velensek’s leg, but all worked out well and the vice world champion survived the pool with Verkerk and defeated Castillo and Turks herself. After her defeat against Kayla Harrison, her ninth, but quite a good match, she overwhelmed Luise Malzahn by a huge choke and took the bronze.
Since 2004 Slovenia captured Olympic medals, in 2004 when Zolnir was allowed with a wild card she won bronze, in 2008 Lucija Polavder took bronze in the heavyweight category and Zolnir snatched the gold in 2012 against Lili Xu. The Olympic bronze was also the kick-off for World medals since 2005 by Rasa Sraka, Zolnir, Polavder, Vlora Bedeti, Trstenjak and Velensek, all women. At European level only Aljaz Sedej in 2009 and Rok Draksic won European medals. Draksic is the big man with a European title in 2013 and five European bronze medals, but in Rio Draksic fell in the tremendous competition against Sagi Muki in his third Olympics.
In comparable countries one gender is by far more successful over years. The women of China, now finally the curse was broken by Cheng Xunzhao. But also the women of Brazil, the Cuban women, Polish women, Austrian women and in the 2020 generation Croatian women, German women and perhaps Turkish and Canadian women. But there’s hardly any country comparable to Slovenia that wins an Olympic gold medal each for years with just 1 million women, and perhaps just 3,000 judoka. That may now change as the popularity of judo will again increase. With new kids Klara Apotekar (sister of Ana Velensek) and the Stangar sisters Slovenia can compete with the booming nations in judo.
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Alessio Graziani (ITA)