Sunday, January 05, 2003

Happy Birthday, Janica

There could be better ways for Janica Kostelić to celebrate her 21st birthday, but I can’t imagine any other than this morning’s alpine skiing events. Janica Kostelić is currently leading slalom race in Bormio by some 0.6 seconds margin, while her brother Ivica currently leads slalom race in Kranjska Gora. If those results stand after second races and both brother and sister Kostelić win that could be one of the greatest day in the history of Croatian sport.

Unfortunately, very few people in Croatia are going to notice. Until Janica began winning some three years ago, Kostelićs’ skiing was hardly on public radar. Most of Croatian sports fans thought of more traditional sports like soccer, basketball and, to a lesser degree, tennis. Alpine skiing was something too exotic and too localised – sport that only financially sound Croatians (and that means tiny minority) can afford and care about.

But Kostelićs changed all that. Due to hard work and immeasurable sacrifices Janica and Ivica slowly but inevitably began serious contenders. In 2000 and 2001 Janica finally became “Snow Queen”, probably the only Croatian sportswoman who could have drawn Zagreb soccer fans (including notorious “Bad Blue Boys” hooligan group) to the skiing events in neighbouring Slovenia. Then came the Salt Lake Olympics and medals, and her brother Ivica, as good at skis as at his electric guitar.

Kostelićs today represent probably the only palpable success story in impoverished Croatia, country still recovering from war, economic mismanagement and other ills inherited from Tudjman’s era. Both of them might fall today and not win medals, but the mention in this blog is the least they deserve on this day.


Post a Comment

<< Home