Slovenian Ski-jumpers are World Beaters
27.01.2016 | Fiona Thompson
Few Slovenian sportsmen and women become big international stars but when it does happen, it seems to capture the imagination of the whole country.
Twenty-four-year-old Peter Prevc is one Slovenian athlete who has put his country on the sporting map; this slight young man from the village of Dolenjska vas near Kranj, hasn't just risen to the peak of his profession, he has helped to inspire a new generation of would-be champions and revive a sport which had been in decline in Slovenia.
When Prevc took his final jump in the Four Hills tournament back in 2016 - the competition that takes places at four venues in Austria and Germany at the end of December and beginning of January - the Slovenian nation held its collective breath. Not since the great Primož Peterka in the 1996/7 season had a Slovenian ski-jumper topped the winners' podium at this prestigious event. Not only did Prevc take the title with three wins and one third place, he also became the highest overall points scorer in the tournament.
Prevc is one of five brothers and sisters. His youngest brother Domen, aged 16, is also a ski-jumper and has made his mark in international competition, holding his own against more experienced jumpers in the 205/16 season and then outjumping his brother throughout the 2016/17 season. Another brother, Cene, is also a competitive ski-jumper while one of their sisters, Nika, also participates in the sport.
And it's not just the Prevc family! Today Slovenia's ski-jumping team is the strongest it has been in decades. Now aged 31, Robert Kranjec continues to put in solid performances as does his fellow veteran jumper Juri Tepeš, while Anže Lanišek is another rising star of the sport.
So why is it that Slovenia, a tiny country with a population of around 2 million people, does so well in this sport? Is there something about Slovenians that makes them so well-suited to this breath-taking discipline?
The Slovenians have a slogan 'Kdor ne skače ne Slovenec' - He that doesn't jump isn't Slovene.
OK, so it's not strictly a Slovenian expression but Slovenian people love to shout it and nowhere more so than when Slovenians are flying off the ski jumps. In fact, Slovenians, in general, love adrenaline sports - rafting, climbing, mountain biking and kayaking are hugely popular - and Slovenia has become an important European destination for adventure holidays.
The very nature of Slovenians and their attitude to life seems to draw them to exciting pastimes and challenges. Endurance swimmer Martin Strel, who famously swam the length of the Amazon, is one example of this typically Slovene spirit in action.
While some adrenaline junkies seek their thrills in the most extreme environments - ice climbing is an undeniably dangerous but very popular activity in Slovenia - the country has plenty to offer those who want to indulge their desire for excitement in a less risky fashion. There are 'adrenalin parks' across the country, offering a variety of activities such as high ropes courses, and mountain biking. The Soča Valley is the place to head to take part in white water rafting while all over Slovenia there are opportunities to explore the many karst caves.
It could be argued that Slovenians are no more predisposed to excel in ski-jumping than athletes of other nations, but it's certainly true that, as a nation, Slovenians love exciting pastimes and have plenty of excellent opportunities to enjoy them.
The final event of the 2016/7ski jumping season takes place at the Planica Nordic Centre in Slovenia on 24 and 25 March 2017