Sunday, 9 January 2022

Croatian Paralympians Reflect on Successful 2021, Ready for Beijing 2022

January 9, 2022 - Despite another challenging pandemic year, Croatian athletes with disabilities achieved excellent results in 2021, and it was one of the most successful years for Croatian Paralympians.

"I am delighted and satisfied with the results achieved in the past year," said the president of the Croatian Paralympic Committee (HPO), Ratko Kovačić, on T.portal.

"We reached a high level of results last year in various international competitions. We won 461 medals, 54 at the Paralympic Games and world and European championships. According to the number of medals won at the Paralympics in Tokyo, we are 46 in the world. According to the criteria of medals won according to the number of inhabitants, we are among the eight in the world, so we have knowledge and quality. The public increasingly recognizes us and appreciates the success of our athletes," he added.

Undoubtedly the most important competition last year was the Paralympic Games in Tokyo - and they were the most special in history. With a year of delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, they were held in excellent conditions, without spectators, and with strict epidemiological protocols, with intense testing of all participants in the city in a state of emergency due to record coronavirus infections. As a result, Croatian athletes with disabilities competed in a record eight sports, winning a record seven medals - three silver and four bronze. Until Tokyo, Croatian Paralympians won the most medals in London (2012) and Rio de Janeiro (2016), five each.

"We escorted our Paralympians to the Paralympics in Tokyo from the historic Pula Arena with the desire to be brave and determined to fulfill their sporting dreams, and above all to preserve health in these pandemic conditions. As a result, we competed in triathlon, taekwondo, and bocce for the first time. In Tokyo, we competed in the largest number of sports since Croatian independence - eight, and with seven medals we won the largest number of medals in the history of our performances at the Paralympic Games," Kovačić said, congratulating the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and Japan on the top organization.

Kovačić pointed out that HPO adjusted its plans in the pandemic year but kept the statuses of all athletes and those involved in the Paralympic programs and HPO programs.

"All this has led to great success for our athletes at international competitions and the Paralympic Games in Tokyo," he added.

He emphasized that HPO's activities in the next Paralympic cycle will aim to maintain and increase the level of top results and involve as many young people with disabilities in sports as possible.

"All this should be accompanied by strengthening the organizational and professional infrastructure. We have good support from the state budget through the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and our sponsors. But that does not cover all our program needs and plans," he said, pointing out the biggest problems.

"We see the biggest problems in the weak support for sports at the local level, as well as inadequacy and insufficient availability of sports facilities. We strive to enable sports for all young people with disabilities throughout the Republic of Croatia, and so far, we have a coverage of 40 percent. However, we need additional financial incentives to properly develop the program of involving young people in sports throughout the country."

Ahead of the Paralympians is the Winter Paralympics in Beijing from March 4 to 13, 2022.

"The performance of two athletes in alpine skiing has been confirmed, namely Lucija Smetiško and Damir Mizdrak, then Bruno Bošnjak will compete in snowboarding, and we expect another invitation for one athlete in Nordic skiing. Croatia first competed in the Winter Paralympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 in alpine skiing, and since then, we have been regularly participating. At the last Winter Paralympic Games in Pyongyang, Croatia competed for the first time in three sports (alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, snowboarding) with seven athletes. The most significant result in Croatian Paralympic history was achieved at these Winter Paralympic Games. One gold medal in alpine skiing in the slalom discipline (Dino Sokolović) and a bronze medal in snowboarding in the banked slalom discipline (Bruno Bošnjak) were won. It is hard to believe that we could repeat the success from South Korea, but we hope that Bošnjak could repeat the success from the previous games," concluded Kovačić.

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

Friday, 1 February 2019

Bruno Bošnjak and Anđela Mužinić Named Croatia's Best Athletes with Disabilities

The snowboarding bronze medalist at the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, Bruno Bošnjak, and the bronze medalist of the Table Tennis World Championships in Celje, Anđela Mužinić, was declared the best Croatian athletes with disabilities in 2018 in the selection of the Croatian Paralympic Board (HPO), reports HRT on January 31, 2019. 

Bošnjak entered history as an athlete who brought Croatia's first medal at the Winter Paralympics and is currently in Canada where he is expected to perform in the North American Cup and the World Cup in the Banked Slalom and Snowboard Cross.

In Slovenia, the young Split native reached her first medal in individual competition at the World Championships and a total of ten medals at major tournaments. At the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Mužinić won the silver with Helena Dretar Karić in pairs. They also won silver and bronze at the World Championships, and three gold and the bronze at the team European Championships, while Anđela also has two silver medals in individual competitions at the European Championships.

The winner of the award for the most successful coach in 2018 was Slobodan Glavčić, the swimming coach of Dino Sinovčić, who won the 100m gold medal at the European Championships in Dublin.

The award for the most successful team was awarded to the team of sports fishermen, Ivica Bonino Hasan, Mensur Rošić, Zeljko Kljaić, Nikola Geček and Zlatko Poparić, who won the gold medal at the World Championships in Međimurje.

The best athletes in non-Olympic sports are sports fishermen Nikola Geček and bowler Ruža Markešić. Geček won the gold at the World Championships in sports fishing in the individual and team competition, while Markešić won two gold and tee silver at the European Championships for the blind and visually impaired in Romania.

The most successful young athletes with disabilities are judoist Jelena Brešković, skier Lucija Smetiško and swimmer Luka Plemenčić.

Last year, HPO awarded the "Milka Milinković" prize in memory of our famous Paralympian as an acknowledgement for many years of work on the development of sports for people with disabilities. This year the award was given to Dubravka Ciliga, associate professor at the Faculty of Kinesiology in Zagreb.

The winner of the special award for 'Outstanding Contribution to Media Promotion for Sports of Disabled Persons' is a journalist of Croatian Radio - Radio Split, Ivona Jakić.

“The past year was exhilarating and full of great achievements on Croatian and international sports grounds. Our athletes made sure that almost no day in 2018 passed without a medal. Namely, they won 318, including 115 gold, 98 silver and 105 bronze. Guided by enthusiasm, passion, perseverance, and the love of sport, often in unmanageable working conditions, they once again managed to raise the bar - namely, for the first time in history, they won medals at the Winter Paralympics. This is how we placed ourselves as 18th in the world, in the company of 24 countries that won medals at the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games,” said President of the Croatian Paralympic Committee (HPO) Ratko Kovačić at a ceremony held at the Congress Hall of the Zagreb Fair.

The HPO President stressed that athletes with disabilities have a new challenge ahead. 

“The Paralympic Games in Tokyo are expected next year, and I am confident that with the same work and effort, will and courage, we will write some new pages of sports history. I will, therefore, conclude with the wise words that the American President Theodor Roosevelt said in the last century, and are still true today: “Believe you can and you're halfway there,” he stressed.

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