Croatian Olympic Committee Names Women's Handball Best Team in Croatia, Šoštarić Coach of Year

By 22 December 2020
Croatian Olympic Committee Names Women's Handball Best Team in Croatia, Šoštarić Coach of Year

December 22, 2020 - At the end of the year, the Croatian Olympic Committee (COC) traditionally concludes with selecting the most successful athletes and trainers and awards special recognitions to deserving people in sport.

HRT reports that in the COVID-19 pandemic year, the picture of Croatian sport also looked significantly different from previous years because epidemiological measures affected the delays and cancellations of competitions and the training processes of athletes. COC's data revealed that out of the planned 1,089 competitions, only 230 (21 percent) were held in 2020.

That is why the traditional celebration of the Great Day of Croatian Sports this year was not held as normal, with togetherness and socializing in the Crystal Hall of the Westin Hotel and the presentation of awards and recognitions to the laureates.

The solution instead was a pre-recorded television show, realized by Sports Television and premiered by Croatian Television.

In a review of the outgoing year, the President of the Croatian Olympic Committee, Zlatko Mateša, emphasized our athletes' indomitable spirit.

"Despite all the troubles caused by the spread of coronavirus in sports, Croatian athletes have shown that they are stronger than the pandemic, so even in these abnormal conditions, they managed to achieve world-class results," said Mateša.

According to the COC's record of medals won, which are announced to the public at the end of each year by the COC Secretary General Josip Cop, Croatian athletes won a total of 93 medals at major competitions in 2020 at all ages (26 gold, 26 silver, and 41 bronze).

The most impressive individual achievements, according to the criteria of the Croatian Olympic Committee, were achieved by the athlete of the year, the bronze medalist sailor from the World Laser Championship Tonči Stipanović, and senior bronze in judoka and silver medalist from the junior European Championships, Karla Prodan, who shares the title of the most successful female athlete with the taekwondo silver medalist from the European Championships and an obvious candidate for the Tokyo Olympics, Matea Jelić.

In selecting the best men's team and women's team of the year, it's all about handball - the men's national team won the silver at the European Championships and were joined by the phenomenal women's national team who sensationally won the European bronze medal in Denmark.

At the wings of that success, the women's handball coach Nenad Šoštarić also earned the title of coach of the year, together with the previously selected sailing expert Jozo Jakelić.

The best crew was awarded to the Sinkovic Brothers, who won the European silver in rowing.

Because of less competition in the nominations for the most successful athletes and teams, this year, the COC awarded four Special Awards for Sports Achievements, which were given to the athletes who have achieved the largest number of nominations in the last decade. 

They were won by archer Ivana Buden, diver Goran Čolak and the women's sea fishing national team, and the men's crossbow national team.

The laureates of the Matija Ljubek Award, which the Croatian Olympic Committee awards to lifetime achievements in sport, are led this year by Predrag Sloboda, whose leadership in the Croatian Water Polo Federation the senior national team helped to win an abundance of trophies, among them Olympic, world and Mediterranean gold.

Professor Ivan Pal comes from Koprivnica as a laureate, a coach responsible for the European rise of RK Podravka (the title of European champions from 1996), and numerous other successes. Along with them is the legend of volleyball Ivica Jelić, who has valuable trophies in his collection as a player and as a coach.

The list of meritorious people in sport is completed by the basketball great, triple Olympian, and multiple national, European, and world champion Damir Šolman. As a laureate of the Matija Ljubek Award, this year is KK Split, a club celebrated by Šolman in his playing time, which peaked its glory with the triple crown of the European club champion (1989, 1990, 1991).

The COC award for fair play deservedly went to a 16-year-old volleyball player from Umag, Ema Stikić, who made a correct gesture at the national cadet championship in her club's quarterfinal match with Rijeka. In the dramatic outcome of the duel, while playing point for point, Ema Stikić correctly admitted her contact with the net in a point, which meant the defeat of her team (2-3) and the passage of Rijeka to the semifinals.

The Croatian Football Television (HNTV) awarded the recognition for the greatest promoter of sports to the Croatian Football Television (HNTV). In contrast, the largest promoter of Croatian sports in the world was not elected this year.

With congratulations to all the winners, the Croatian Olympic Committee leaders wished Croatian athletes a Merry Christmas and many more opportunities for training and performances, and that means for new great successes - in the 2021 Olympics.

The first ladies of sports and Olympism in Croatia - Minister of Sport and Tourism Nikolina Brnjac and Croatian member of the IOC Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović also sent their best wishes.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.