Croatian Paralympians Reflect on Successful 2021, Ready for Beijing 2022

Daniela Rogulj

Updated on:

Goran Stanzl/PIXSELL
Goran Stanzl/PIXSELL

“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.  


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