TCN looks back on the top moments in Croatian sports this year.
Tour of Croatia: The international cycling race Tour of Croatia was held from April 19 to 24 this year. This six-day, 1000km long epic cycling journey took cyclists and spectators on a ride across Croatia through Osijek, Varaždin, Split, Makarska, Šibenik, Plitvice lakes, Učka, Poreč and Umag and into Međimurje and Zagreb. Over 12 hours of TV production was shown around the world, and the entire tour was broadcast live by HRT and Eurosport, along with many other TV stations on 6 continents. Talk about a good promotion for the country!
Jug Is The European Champion: On June 5, for the fourth time in the club’s history, waterpolo club Jug from Dubrovnik (VK Jug) won the Champion’s League. The Croats came to Budapest ranked third in the preliminaries, first beating the host team Eger in the quarterfinals, then coming out on top against Recco from Italy in the semis, and finally claiming champion after defeating Olympiacos from Greece – the Greeks first defeat of the entire season. Marko Bijač was awarded best goalie of the final-six tournament and Felipe Perrone won MVP.
Darijo Srna’s emotional moments during Euro 2016: On June 12, Uzeir Srna, father of Croatian national team captain Darijo Srna, passed away just as Croatia pulled a win against Turkey in their first match at Euro in France. Srna decided to fly back to Croatia for the funeral, but made a bold decision to return to France in time to lead his team onto the field against the Czech Republic. Srna, who had also announced his retirement from international football this year, wept during Croatia’s national anthem – an emotional moment captured by the cameras but seen with praise, admiration, and bravery by the footballer from viewers throughout the world.
Croatian fan hooliganism at Euro: During Croatia’s second match at Euro against the Czech Republic, there was a suspension of play for four minutes near the end as flares and firecrackers were thrown onto the pitch from the Croatian fans. The incident quickly picked up the attention of international media and garnered opinions from plenty of Croats. While the incident not only put Croatian hooliganism on the map, it also forced those to find the deeper meaning behind the purpose, and brought the corruption that exists in the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) to the front line. HNS was fined much milder than expected, and Zdravko Mamic did end up resigning as Vice President of HNS after all.
Croatia 2 Spain 1, First Spanish Euro Defeat for 12 Years: On June 21st, Croatia looked past the fan hooliganism and went into their biggest group stage match of Euro against Spain. While injuries riddled the team, many were assuming the worst. Spain took the lead with a goal by Alvaro Morata, but a goal from Nikola Kalinic soon equalized. Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subasic saved a penalty by Spain’s Sergio Ramos and a late winner by Ivan Perisic helped Croatia pull out a 2-1 victory over the Spanish giants.
Sinković Brothers Win Olympic Gold: On August 11th, the unbeaten Croats took home gold medals in the double sculls race in Rio. Although the Lithuanian crew gave them a run, the Croats came out on top, filled with emotions after the win in what they claim was the toughest race they’ve had. In addition to winning the Olympic gold, the brothers were also named best in the world, again, when they were awarded “Best Male Crew 2016” by the World Rowing Federation.
Image by Sinkovic Brothers Facebook
Damir Martin Wins The Silver At The Olympics Finishing Tied With The Winner: On August 13th, the young rower from Vukovar Damir Martin, who trailed in the last 500 meters of the single sculls race, brought out his best and caught up with the New Zealander Mahe Drysdale for a photo finish that showed a tie for first. While Damir Martin had the same time as Drysdale, and if this was not the Olympic games, the two would share the gold medal. But since the Olympics are a bit more strict, and the photo finish showed that Drysdale was seven thousands of the second faster, the Croatian was awarded the silver medal.
Image by Croatian Olympic Committee
Tonči Stipanović Secures First Olympic Medal Ever For Croatian Sailing: Tonči Stipanović, an experienced Croatian sailor and JK Mornar Split member, took home the first ever Olympic sailing medal for Croatia. Stipanović won silver in the men’s laser class after he finished ten races in Rio.
Sara Kolak Wins the Olympic Gold: On August 19th, Croatian Sara Kolak staged a miracle in Rio to win the gold for javelin. While Kolak was the contender for the gold medal if she performed her absolute best, Kolak not only blew everyone away, but she even set a new Croatian record throwing 66.18 meters. While her path to victory was not a simple one, Kolak accomplished the greatest, and even got to celebrate with a Croatian flag given to her by fellow Croatian Olympian Sandra Perković.
Blanka Vlašić Reaches Bronze Medal Height in High Jump: On August 21st, Blanka Vlašić won her second Olympic medal in her fourth Olympics performance. Jumping over the height of 1.97 metres, Vlašić came in third place to win the bronze medal in Rio, even though it was clear she was struggling with an injury. Blanka’s first Olympic appearance was in Sydney in 2000 at just 17 years of age. While she didn’t make it past qualifications then, in Athens 2004, Vlašić placed 11th and in Beijing 2008 she won the silver medal. Vlašić was unable to compete at the London Olympics in 2012 due to injury. This medal was a major accomplishment for the athlete.
Croatia Takes the Olympic Bronze for Gold Medals Per Capita: The New York Times, after the Rio Olympics, published a table which established gold medals per capita. After a very successful performance at Rio, Croatia took the per capita bronze, with five gold medals to show for its 4.2 million people, which is one gold per 844,880 inhabitants. Croatia sat just behind the tiny Bahamas who came in first place with just one gold medal, and Jamaica who came in second.
Mate Pavić and Laura Siegmund Win US Open Mixed Couples: It may have taken 78 years, but this year Croatia once again got a Grand Slam winner in mixed couples. The US Open finals, held in Flushing Meadows, was dominated by 23-year-old Split native Mate Pavić and his partner Laura Siegmund from Germany. The stellar combination came out to win against American pair CoCo Wandewegh and Rajeev Ram with 6:4, 6:4. To make matters even more sweet? Pavić is only the eighth Croatian representative that can boast a Grand Slam title.
Image by Pete Staples/USTA
First Paralympic Gold Medal in Table Tennis: On September 13th, the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro played the Croatian national anthem after table tennis player Sandra Paović won gold, beating German Stephanie Grebe with 3-0 (11-2, 11-7, 11-4) in the finals. This was Croatia’s fourth gold in the history of the Paralympic games. Sandra’s gold was the first medal for Croatian table tennis in the history of Paralympics.
Image by Croatian Paralympic Committee
Marin Čilić beats Novak Djokovic, ranked his career best at 6th in world: Marin Čilić tasted victory in 2016 in more ways than one. On November 4, after he was beaten by Novak Djokovic 14 times in a row over 8 years, Čilić finally broke the world number one at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, upsetting Djokovic 6-4, 7-6(2) in one hour and 45 minutes of tennis. Marin then went on to claim his best overall ATP world ranking, number 6, after defeating Kei Nishikori at the London Masters.
Davis Cup finals held in Croatia, Croatia loses to Argentina: While it was an incredible feat to be in the Davis Cup finals, it was even more significant that the finals were played on Croatia’s home turf. After the first two days of the finals, Croatia was in the lead 2-1 after Marin Čilić won in singles on the first day and again in doubles with Dodig the following day. It was up to Čilić on the final day to grab the last point, and although he was off to a great start against Juan Martin Del Potro, leading 2:0 in sets, it was Del Potro who came out on top. While not all was lost, all hopes then went to Ivo Karlović who unfortunately couldn’t swing past Delbonis. It was Argentina who celebrated victory in the end.
Image by Corinne Dubreull / Paul Zimmer