Monday, 20 September 2021

Ombudswoman Calls on Split City Authorities to Honour Its Para-Athletes

ZAGREB, 20 Sept 2021 - Ombudswoman for Persons with Disabilities Anka Slonjšak has called on the Split city authorities to honor local athletes who have won medals at the Paralympic Games by inscribing their names on the Split Sports Walk of Fame, thus showing that persons with disabilities are accepted and equal to other members of society.

The western section of the city's waterfront, upgraded in April 2013, includes the Sports Walk of Fame featuring bronze plaques with the names of 76 Split athletes who have won 94 medals in 11 events at the Olympic Games, starting with the 1948 Olympic Games in London.

Slonjšak noted that by symbolically honoring Split para-athletes by inscribing their names on the Sports Walk of Fame the city authorities would send an important message - that persons with disabilities are accepted and have equal rights as other members of society.

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Friday, 3 September 2021

Dino Sinovčić Wins 100 m Backstroke Bronze at Tokyo Paralympic Games!

September 3, 2021 - Yet another medal for the Croatia team at the Tokyo Paralympics arrived today, thanks to Paralympic swimmer Dino Sinovčić!

Croatia's best paralympic swimmer Dino Sinovčić (29) won the bronze medal in the 100-meter backstroke in the S6 category at the Paralympic Games. This is the first swimming medal for Croatia at these Paralympic Games.

Sinovčić convincingly won in his qualifying group with a result of 1:16.74, and later in the final, he achieved a time of 1:15.74, which was enough for the bronze medal. 

A new world record and the gold medal was won by China's Hongguang Jia with a time of 1:12.72, and the silver by Argentina's Matias de Andrade (1:15.40).

Sinovčić is the current world champion in that discipline after celebrating in London in 2019 with a result of 1:15.46. This year, he was second at the European Championships in Portugal, while in 2018, he also became the European champion in Dublin.

These are his second Paralympic Games after Rio de Janeiro, where he was fifth in the 100-meter backstroke.

"This is something phenomenal; at the moment, there is no one happier than me. I know many will think it's just bronze, but I should be proud to be here at all. After I entered the finals, I had to fight for the medal, and there is nothing better than winning it, said the Mornar Split swimmer.

Sinovčić arrived in Tokyo as the current world, former European, and current European runner-up. He was also one of the candidates for a medal in Tokyo.

"It means nothing because I was a world champion two years ago. Every race is new proof. To win a medal in a competition is the dream of every athlete; for me, this is the realization of all dreams."

Croatian Athletics has two medals at the Paralympics in Tokyo thanks to Velimir Šandor and Ivan Katanušić. In addition, the Croatia table tennis team of Anđela Mužinić and Helena Dretar Karić won the bronze medal earlier this week. 

Source:  HRT

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Thursday, 2 September 2021

Ivan Katanušić Wins Discus Throw Silver at Tokyo Paralympics!

September 2, 2021 - Croatia Paralympian Ivan Katanušić (30) won the silver medal in the F64 category discus throw at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, achieving the greatest success in his career!

The competition was held after heavy rain fell tirelessly throughout the evening. As a result, athletes spent more time clearing the pitching area than concentrating on their throws. 

Sandra Perković threw in almost the same conditions during the Olympic Games, but the competition was interrupted for more than half an hour. Not this time.

In such almost impossible conditions, the 30-year-old from Imotski, a member of Zagreb's AKOSI Urih, won silver with a result of 55.06. The gold went to team USA's Jeremy Campbell, who threw 60.22, while the bronze went to Great Britain's Dan Greaves (53.56).

American Davi Blair, who, along with Campbell and Ivan, was the only one to throw over 60 meters this year, was fourth with 53.18, and in the third series, he even slipped and fell.

Katanušić has thus won medals at the largest competition for people with disabilities, including World and European Championship medals and medals at the IWAS World Games,

"At this moment, it took five years of blood, sweat, tears, sciatica, leg fracture, appendicitis, joint surgery, ligament assembly. I told the coach either I would ‘die’ and win a medal today or it would be the end of the sport for me. However, I would not have given up if it had fallen even harder," said Katanušić.

Ivan came to Tokyo with the European record of 62.13, which he threw in May 2019 in Split. He also threw 62.61 meters, but it was not in the verified WPA competition, so it was not recognized. However, he won the silver medal throwing only 55.06 this time.

"If someone had told me that I would win a medal with this result, I would not have believed them. My workouts were around 62, 63 meters. But nothing could be done today. It was slippery; you have no control over your leg. However, it did not touch me. I was in a world of my own," said Katanušić, the world bronze medalist in Dubai 2019 and London 2017.

He also won six medals at the European Championships, including gold in discus throw from Bydgoszcz in 2021 and gold in shot put from Grosset in 2016.

Ivan's leg was amputated twenty days after he was born. There were complications during childbirth as he had thrombosis. But at 13 months, doctors called him a “miracle child” after he walked with a prosthesis.

This Imotski native never let his disability get in the way of sports and was active in football, handball, and basketball with his peers. Before athletics, he was one of Croatia's best national team members in sitting volleyball.

"Losing my lower leg is a great disability, but I am healthier and more capable than at least 80 percent of my healthy generation," he emphasized.

He was lucky that at the start of his athletic career, he was received by coaching legend, the late Ivan Ivančić. He repeatedly pointed out that when there was no real support, "Trendžo" was the one who provided him with vitamins and professional help. The first results soon began to arrive. At the 2014 Swansea European Championships, he won silver, then bronze. When Ivančić passed away in August 2014, he started working with Roland Varga.

"Trendžo would be proud now," he added.

After a year with his new coach, he improved his personal record by more than seven meters. In the years that followed, he won six medals at the European and World Championships.

One of the most difficult moments in his career happened in 2015 when he broke his left, healthy leg. He had a double fracture, a tendon, and a ligament injury, but he did not give up. The following year, he won gold in the shot put and silver in the discus at the European Disability Championships in Grosett, Italy, just a few hours apart.

Rio de Janeiro also didn't go as planned. He had a ruptured ligament in his foot that he had operated on a year earlier. Even with this injury, Ivan was still fifth in Rio in the end.

"It was a difficult competition, but it was even harder for Ivan. The conditions were really awful, especially for discus throwers in this category, which can be seen from the results. However, these are the Paralympic Games; the placement is important, not the result," said coach Roland Varga.

"When I saw it was raining all day, I knew that the results would not be top-notch," he added.

They have been working together for seven years, and Varga has discovered the key to Ivan’s success.

"Ivan behaves, thinks, and lives as if he has no disability. He grows year after year, is more stable, and technically better. But, this is just the beginning. There are certainly two more cycles ahead of him," Varga said.

Croatian Athletics now has two medals at the Paralympics in Tokyo. This is the second silver medal after Velimir Šandor.

"Katanušić had the third result this season, and we hoped to fight for a medal, but silver in these conditions is more than an excellent result. We still have the performances of Rio gold medalist Mikela Ristoski and Zoran Talić, who never returns without a medal and prevails at big competitions. Deni Černi and Vladimir Gašpar can also find their place high in the standings," said coach Damjan Sedić.

Source: HRT

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Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Croatia Table Tennis Team Wins Bronze Medal at 2020 Tokyo Paralympics!

September 1, 2021 - The Croatia table tennis team of Anđela Mužinić and Helena Dretar Karić failed to qualify for the team competition final at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo after losing to South Korea 0-2 in the semifinal.

However, by entering the semifinal, they secured the bronze medal, their second Paralympic medal in their career after winning silver five years ago in Rio de Janeiro, reports HRT.

It is the second medal for Croatia in Tokyo after Velimir Šandor's silver in the discus throw.

The Tokyo semifinal was a replay of the Rio de Janeiro semifinal. But this time, Mi Gyu Lee and Jiyu Yoon celebrated 2-0.

Yoon and Lee first won doubles with 3-1 (11-7, 11-9, 7-11, 11-7), and then Yoon beat Mužinić 3-0 (11-7, 11-9, 11- 4), so the match between Helena and Mi Gyu was not needed. In the second semifinal, China defeated Italy 2-1.

"This time, it didn't work; they were too strong," said Dretar Karić.

"However, we must be happy and proud of this bronze," added the 42-year-old from Varaždin.

South Korea opened the match by winning two sets, and after Croatia reduced it to 1-2, it seemed as if it'd be a replay of Rio when Croatia lost 0-2 and finally celebrated with 3-2. But this time, they weren't as lucky. 

"They have made a lot of progress, and today they were better. In the second set, we found great tactics, and we played well until the end of the match, but that was not enough. My individual match was not good. I lost security after losing to Yoon in singles. I couldn’t find a solution for her game."

In addition to two Paralympic medals, Mužinić and Dretar Karić also won silver (2017) and bronze (2014) at the world championships and four golds (2013, 2015, 2017, 2019) and bronze (2011) at the European team championships.

"We have been European champions for many years," said Anđela.

Next year, this Croatian duo will have a new text, the World Cup, and in three years, there will be a new Paralympic Games in Paris.

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Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Croatia Table Tennis Team Secures at Least Bronze at 2020 Paralympic Games!

August 31, 2021 - The Croatia table tennis team of Anđela Mužinić and Helena Dretar Karić have secured at least the bronze medal after advancing to the semifinals in Tokyo!

Croatia table tennis players Anđela Mužinić and Helena Dretar Karić won a spot in the semifinals of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo and thus secured at least the bronze medal in the team competition, reports HRT.

In the quarterfinals, Croatia beat Turkey 2-0 and thus secured the bronze at the Paralympic Games after winning silver in Rio de Janeiro five years ago. It will be the second medal for Croatia in Tokyo after Velimir Šandor's silver in the discus throw.

In the first match, Anđela and Helena beat Hatice Duman and Nergiz Altintas 3-1 (9-11, 11-8, 12-10, 11-9) in the doubles, and then Mužinić beat Duman 3-0 (11). -7, 13-11, 13-11) so the third meeting was unnecessary.

"It's easier to breathe. After the defeat in the singles, we had to get up, and I think we managed. I felt great, I was full of security, but there was huge pressure when we came to the table. In the end, we managed to register a victory, and usually, a victory in pairs is crucial," said Dretar Karić, adding: "Now we can get into a real "fight."

"We were tight, they took the lead at 7-1, but we needed to remain calm. Unfortunately, we lost the first set, but we managed to come back," added Mužinić.

Croatia confirmed its spot in the semifinals in the second match, in which the 29-year-old table tennis player celebrated with a convincing 3-0.

"I played many times against Duman, once I was awarded world bronze. She was always my tough rival. Even today, it was difficult, and only now after the match, I feel relief."

Dretar Karić and Anđela Mužinić won silver in Rio, and it was the first Croatia team medal in the history of the Paralympic Games. A medal was also expected from them in Tokyo.

"Maybe that's why we were under pressure. However, we knew that this victory carries a medal, and I am sure that it won't be like that tomorrow," said Dretar Karić.

They will play against South Korea in the semifinal tomorrow, and it will be a replay from Rio when Croatia celebrated. Interestingly, Croatia won then and never again against South Korea.

"They were the favorites then, and I think they will be tomorrow as well, but we have nothing to lose," said the 42-year-old from Varaždin, while Mužinić added: "We promise to fight, and we will play without surrender."

In addition to silver in Rio, Mužinić and Dretar Karić also won silver (2017) and bronze (2014) at the World Championships and four golds (2013, 2015, 2017, 2019) and bronze (2011) at the European Team Championships.

Coach Mirela Šikoronja Ivančin emphasized that the most important thing was to "bring them back to life" after being eliminated in the individual competition, especially for Anđela, who had bigger goals than the quarterfinals.

"It was terribly difficult to play the match you have to win. We are defending the silver medal from Rio, we know we are good, but you have to confirm that," said Šikoronja Ivančin.

"I knew it would be a difficult match, there are no easy rivals here, but the girls responded well to the challenges, and both are in shape, and I am overjoyed that they secured a medal."

She pointed out that the biggest problem is that there have been no matches for more than a year.

"We haven't had a single official match for a year and a half, and then came the Paralympic Games, which in themselves bring pressure.

Korea is a team we only beat in Rio. But the girls are in a great position now, they have taken the pressure off their backs, and now they can bravely enter the match. They have quality, and I believe in them endlessly."

She also regrets that there are no spectators in the stands.

"This is a beautiful hall, and it is a real pity that there are no spectators because the stands would be full," concluded Šikoronja Ivančin.

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Sunday, 29 August 2021

Velimir Šandor Wins Discus Throw Silver Medal at Tokyo Paralympics!

August 29, 2021 - Croatia Paralympian Velimir šandor (35) won the silver medal in discus throw in the F52 category, thus winning the first medal for Croatia at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo!

The athlete from Velika Gorica's Uspona won bronze five years ago in Rio de Janeiro, but now he has gone a step further, achieving the greatest success in his career.

After an exhausting and long competition, Šandor reached silver with 19.98 meters, while the gold was won by Poland's Piotr Kosewicz who was four centimeters better. The bronze was won by India's Vinod Kumar, throwing 19.91m, and Latvia's legendary Aigars Apinis, who boasts eight Paralympic medals in discus and shot put, was fourth in the end (19.54).

"This is a miracle; I don’t know what happened in general. I know I'm in Tokyo, but I don't know where I am because my soul and body are somewhere else," said Šandor, who is in a wheelchair after a car accident in 2006.

He admitted that waking up in the hospital after the car accident was one of the most difficult experiences, and this medal was the most emotional moment. He dedicated the medal to his mother with tears in his eyes. She passed away last year.

"This is definitely the most emotional moment, and I dedicate this medal to my mother, who left me last year. She pushed me into sports, motivated and encouraged me. So this is a dedication to her and mom; thank you very much. I know that you directed this," added the athlete.

Interestingly, Šandor won Croatia's first medal in Rio, just like in Tokyo.

"Sloup and I joked about the Paralympic Games starting with us. So they have to put me in Paris on the first or second day to open Croatia's series."

He admitted he hoped for bronze but won silver, with just four centimeters behind gold.

"As rower Damir Martin, whom I highly appreciate, said, this is not silver; it is not even platinum, this is a meteorite that fell."

The discus throwers arrived at the stadium as early as 5 pm; the competition started at 7:30 pm local time and ended around 10 pm. Šandor threw the seventh of eight finalists.

"I lost my strength while waiting; I froze; if I were second or third, I would surely throw over 20 meters. We have waited too long; this needs to be accelerated in the future."

He added that the Paralympic postponement came in handy to put all his dice on a new medal.

"Five years have passed since the medal in Rio, which is not small. So this year of delay is welcome to put things in order, to prepare both physically and mentally," he added.

His only regret is that he will not be able to see Tokyo as a tourist.

"Disappointing that we can't see any corner of this city. I am impressed with how they built all this and how they live in this anthill. I’m sorry I can’t experience this for at least 15 minutes."

He discovered that a lot had changed in his life after Rio. So he started training even harder and resigned two years ago so he could prepare for the Paralympics.

"I threw 18.23 in Rio, today 19.98. That is almost two meters more, which is not a small amount in sports. I used to spend a lot of energy on work and training."

In the end, he had a message to those who consider these Games and this sport a "circus."

"Whoever thinks this is "come, throw, and win a medal," just let them try. Behind all this is enormous work and effort, and I want to thank coaches Ivan Čengić and Miovil Rendulić because, without them, there would be no medal."

In 2006, at the age of 20, Velimir was in a car accident on his way back from a football tournament. He landed with the car in a ditch and awkwardly hit the car's roof, breaking his sixth cervical spine. He was diagnosed with tetraparesis, with partial arm movements and leg sensations, and little movement.

After completing a six-month rehabilitation in Varaždinske Toplice and after a two-year recovery in 2009, he became involved in athletics for people with disabilities.

Šandor hinted at his potential in Sochi at the World Games, where he won gold. In Doha at the 2015 World Cup, he was third, and in 2016 at the European Championships, he won silver.

A year later, he also won silver at the World Championships in London, and this year he was third at the European Championships in Poland.

His coach Ivan Čengić did not hide his enthusiasm for the silver medal either.

"When I entered this amazing stadium, I thought how great it would be to win a medal here. It's a wonderful feeling; I knew he could still, but everyone's fatigue coincided, and in the end, he won silver," said Čengić.

"We have made a step higher than Rio de Janeiro, and Paris is close. We still have gold left. I will not exaggerate, but this is a great success," he added.

He also commented on Šandor's technical performance.

"He could have been better; he was a little stiff. If it had gone easier, he would have safely threw 20 meters," he said.

Source: HRT

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Saturday, 28 August 2021

Croatia's First Paralympic Triathlete Antonio Franko Finishes 5th in Tokyo!

August 28, 2021 - Croatia's Antonio Franko won an excellent 5th place in the Paralympic triathlon in Tokyo!

It was the premiere performance of a Croatian triathlete in the history of the Paralympic Games, reports

The triathlon was held in Odaiba Marine Park, and Franko achieved a result of 1:05.49 after 750 meters of swimming, 20 km of cycling, and 5 km of running, 5:51 minutes behind the winner, France's Alexis Hanquinquant.

In second was Japan's Hideki Uda (+3.47), while the bronze was won by Spain's Alejandro Sanchez (+4.26). In front of Franko was China's Jiacho Wang (+4.56).

"I can be satisfied with 5th place; I did my best, at this moment, I couldn't do better. From the beginning to the end, there was a big fight," said the 28-year-old triathlete from Kraljevica, a member of Rijeka's Rival Club.

Franko was fifth after the swimming section, with only two seconds behind third-place. He cycled between 5th and 7th to break through to the fifth place in the last section, which he kept until the end.

Due to the high heat, the start of the race was at 6:30 am. The temperature was already around 29 degrees Celsius with 80 percent humidity.

"The water was hot, about 28, 29 degrees, so during the first lap on the bike, I was still looking for and chasing the feeling. After that, I started running great; I immediately passed the American, I started to step up, but unfortunately, after the second lap, I slipped and fell. My prosthesis tilted a little; after that, I couldn't strengthen it anymore, but I kept it from breaking completely so that I wouldn't have to give up."

Antonio, born with fibular aplasia of the right knee, i.e., a shortening of the leg by 6 cm, won a spot in Tokyo by collecting points in the past two years. 

"It was tough to get a place among the top 10 who competed in Tokyo. Until the last moment, no one was safe except Hanquinquant. After that, everyone else could be eliminated until the last race," he said, adding that he enjoyed his first Paralympic performance.

"The feeling was fantastic, like no other race. I really enjoyed it from start to finish."

Franko added that even before the race, it was known who would win the gold. The Frenchman could only be stopped on the way to victory by an accident. At one point, he even fell while running, but everything went smoothly, and in the end, the three-time world and three-time European champion celebrated.

"We stayed up there somewhere, we all beat each other, depending on the race, but no one has beaten him for four years. He dominates and is really a class above," said Franko, who won the first medal in the paratriathlon, a bronze medal, in 2017 at the World Cup in Altafulla, Spain. His greatest success was the bronze medal at the 2019 European Championships in Valencia.

Franko has been in parasport for 19 years, and our most trophy-winning Paralympian, Milka Milinović, played a big role in that.

"As a kid, I was in swimming, then boxing, so I didn't see myself in parasport. But Milka kept persuading me. Finally, at 19, I decided to give it a try, and after a year in para-swimming, I started with the para-triathlon."

Franko is currently graduating from the Faculty of Kinesiology and is also the fitness coach for the footballers and basketballers of Kraljevica, of course when the time allows because training is a priority.

Coach Hrvoje Vlahović was also satisfied with his performance.

"I am satisfied that Franko won 5th place. We expected a fight between second and seventh place. This is the first time we have had a triathlete at the Paralympic Games. This is the first time that Antonio has competed in such a big competition in full readiness because he was injured at the last world championship and could not show how much he is worth," said Vlahović.

“Among the top ten triathletes, Franko was fifth, and I don’t think we have anything to regret,” he added.

Vlahović pointed out that the track was speedy.

"It was a relatively simple track, and there were no big climbs, but technically there were a couple of sharp bends on the bike section where you had to be careful. But all in all, it was a fast track," Vlahović stressed.

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