Zagreb, February 8, 2017 – Croatian Olympic Committee (COC) celebrated today the 25th anniversary of the Winter Olympic Games in Albertville in 1992 and presented its project on preparation and performance of athletes at the Winter Olympics Pyeongchang 2018.
On this day, 25 years ago, the Croatian athletes marched - for the very first time in the history – under their own flag in the parade of delegations at the Opening Ceremony of the Games. It was only 22 days after the International Olympic Committee recognized the Croatian Olympic Committee and only 24 days after the international recognition of Croatia. A small, but in terms of significance enormous Olympic delegation, led by the Head of Mission Sanda Dubravčić Šimunjak, consisted of figure skaters Željka and Tomislav Čižmešija, Vedran Pavlek, competitor in Alpine Skiing, and Siniša Vukonić, competitor in Cross-Country Skiing. They were accompanied by doctor Ivo Drinković and coaches Ozren Müller, Mladen Mumelaš and Darko Štimac. The President of the Croatian Olympic Committee at that time was Antun Vrdoljak and Secretary General Slavko Podgorelec.
"I performed at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid and Sarajevo, I led - as Head of the Mission - the Croatian athletes in Lillehammer in 1994, however, Albertville was special. None of us have been more proud. We were all so thrilled. It was indescribable, solemn", said on this occasion Sanda Dubravčić Šimunjak, the Olympian who is celebrating another anniversary today – the 33rd anniversary of the opening of Winter Olympics in Sarajevo in 1984, when she was awarded, as the only Croatian athlete in the history, the honor to ignite the Olympic flame.
"Those were my first Olympics, the first for Croatia, and I got a great honor to bear the flag at the Opening Ceremony. I am very proud and those moments are hard to forget. Media interest was huge, we were interviewed by reporters from all around the world. There were all sorts of questions, and even provocation. However, we did everything great. All of us had a great emotional charge", said Tomislav Čižmešija, recalling the stay at the Winter Olympics Albertville, where he was also a flag-bearer at the Opening Ceremony.
Our struggle for performance in Albertville started already at the European Athletics Championships in Split in 1990, attended by the IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch. After the international recognition of Croatia, we visited Samaranch in Lausanne. At that time, we were not a member of the UN and it was difficult to expect the IOC’s acceptance. We had no aces in our sleeves for performance at the Winter Olympics, but we pointed out how important the flag was to us. And we did it. Many dreamed of that, from Bučar until that day. Even now I'm so excited when I talk about it. We started from scratch, we knew nothing, and today we have a great sport. There are 25 years between Albertville and 10 medals at the Olympic Games in Rio. It was a long journey and a lot of hard work", said the Honorary President of the Croatian Olympic Committee and Honorary Member of the International Olympic Committee Antun Vrdoljak, expressing regret that during the recent celebration of the 25th anniversary of recognition of Croatia no one remembered to mention the merits of Croatian athletes in the struggle for recognition.
President of the Croatian Olympic Committee Zlatko Mateša congratulated all the Croatian participants at the Winter Olympics Albertville and the then leadership of the Croatian Olympic Committee and reminded of the new challenges that await the Croatian Olympic Committee and Croatian athletes. The XXIII Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 will be held in one year, on February 9th, 2018. Assistant Secretary General for the Olympic Program, Damir Šegota talked about Croatian Olympic Committee’s expectations and plans. "At this moment, the Croatian Olympic Committee monitors a total of 18 athletes, as follows: Ivica Kostelić, Natko Zrnčić Dim, Filip Zubčić, Leon Popović, Matej Vidović, Istok Rodeš, Elias Kolega, Samuel Kolega and William Vukelić in Alpine Skiing, Filip Petrović in Biathlon, Dražen Silić in Bobsleigh, Daria Obratov in Luge, Vedrana Malec, Gabrijela Skender and Edi Dadić in Cross-Country Skiing, Lea Jugovac and Tina Stojka in Snowboarding and Lana Petranović in Figure Skating", explained Šegota and added that we can be very satisfied with the placement of our alpine skiers among the top 15 competitors, while in other sports the ranking among the first half of the competitors can be considered a success.
Winter Olympics will be held in the Korean city of PyeongChang from February 9th to 25th, 2018 and there will be more than 6,300 athletes participating at the same.