There are just five days left before the opening of the Rio Olympics, so we begin the covering of the biggest sport event with the overview of the Croatian athletes success from past Games
Croatian athletes have left their mark at all of the Olympic Games in the past, with the exception of the 1896 Athens Olympics, appearing under the flags of many countries, but since Barcelona 1992, they represent their own country.
The first ever Olympic medal won by a Croat was in Paris, 1900 when Milan Neralić won the bronze medal in fencing, representing Austria, which ruled most of Croatia at the time.
At the summer games before Barcelona 1992, Croatia had 577 athletes at the Olympic games, and they won the total of 45 medals. Fourteen golds, nineteen silver and twelve bronze medals in total. Those medals were mostly won under the Yugoslav flag, but it would be wrong to begin the Croatian sporting history from 1992.
Anyway, 1992 was the year when Goran Ivanišević proudly carried the Croatian flag in Barcelona, for the first time in the history of summer Olympics, and as Croatia was a newborn country on the world map, and was still battling for its independence, the motive of the participants was sky-high.
The Croatian team counted 39 athletes, as most of the sporting federations did not recognize Croatian federations as their members. The exception was FIBA, which was led by Serbian official Borislav Stanković, and he enabled the Croatian basketball team to participate in the games, showing the real Olympic spirit and putting sporting emotions in front of the political ones.
The basketball team did the best possible job and won the silver medal, losing in the finals to The Dream Team of the USA, probably the best basketball team ever to hit the court. Goran Ivanišević won two bronze medals, one in the singles event of the tennis tournament, and one with Goran Prpić in the doubles event.
The next Olympic games with Croatian team counting 84 athletes were staged in Atlanta, USA, in 1996 and as the Basketball team suffered the loss of the legendary captain Dražen Petrović, two other teams made the country proud.
The handball team won the gold at Atlanta, and it was the first time the Croatian anthem was to be heard at the Olympics. The water polo team won the silver medal, and the stories say that the party of the two teams was legendary.
Sydney Olympics in the year 2000 was missed by the basketball and handball teams, which failed to qualify for the final tournament, and the water-polo team did not perform as expected, but Croatia again won two medals.
Nikolaj Pešalov won the gold in heavyweight-lifting tournament, while the Croatian rowing team won the silver medal in the royal eights event.
Athens 2004 was marked by the big return of the handball team, which won the gold medal. Swimmer Duje Draganja won the silver in the 50 meters freestyle discipline, as did the Skelin brothers in the doubles skulls discipline of the rowing event. Mario Ančić and Ivan Ljubičić won the bronze medal in tennis doubles, and Nikolaj Pešalov added one more bronze medal in the heavyweight-lifting competition.
The Croatian team counted 81 athletes, and it was the games with a significant mark by athletes from Split, as all the Croatian medal winners had the participation of the sportiest city in the world, as the locals like to call the Dalmatian capital.
The Peking games counted 101 Croatian athletes, and are unique regarding the Croatian team’s participation, as all the medals were won in the individual events. Croatian teams were not up the task, but the medal harvest was rich once more.
Filip Ude won the silver medal in the pommel horse discipline of the gymnastics event, and Blanka Vlašić did the same in the high jump, losing the gold by a whisker. Snježana Pejčić won the bronze medal in air rifle discipline of the shooting event, while Martina Zupčić and Sandra Šarić won the bronze medals in Taekwondo.
Finally, four years ago, in London, Croatia recorded 107 participants, and the best overall result ever. Three golds, one silver, and two bronze medals were the total for the Croatian Olympic team in 2012.
The water-polo team returned in style and won the gold medal, Sandra Perković did the same in discus, and Giovanni Cernogoraz won the gold medal in Trap shooting.
The quadruple sculls team has won the silver medal, and Lucija Zaninović has won the bronze medal in Taekwondo. The handball team added one more bronze medal to the collection.
In the week to come, TCN will bring you the overview of the Croatian Olympic team for Rio in the series of the articles with all the facts and our predictions of Croatian chances.