Zagreb, 21 December 2020 - The Croatian Olympic Committee (HOO) traditionally concludes the year with the selection of the most successful female and male athletes and coaches and presentation of special awards to sport notables. In the year burdened by the pandemic (COVID-19), the image of Croatian sport looked significantly different compared to the previous years because epidemiological measures affected the postponements and cancellations of competitions, as well as the athletes’ training.
It is enough just to mention the Croatian Olympic Committee’s data that out of the planned 1089 competitions, only 230 (21 percent) were held in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic also influenced the way the Croatian Olympic Committee’s laureates were chosen, i.e., rewarded. A prerecorded television show, realized by Sportska televizija (Sport Television) and - as usual - premiered by the Croatian Television, turned out to be the best solution.
In overview of the departing year, the Croatian Olympic Committee’s President Zlatko Mateša highlighted the indomitable spirit of our athletes: - Despite all the troubles caused by spreading of COVID-19, the Croatian athletes have shown that they are stronger than the pandemic, so even in these abnormal conditions they managed to achieve world-class results.
According to the Croatian Olympic Committee’s record of medals won, reported at the end of each year by the Croatian Olympic Committee’s Secretary General Josip Čop, our athletes have won a total of 93 medals at major competitions in 2020 (26 gold, 26 silver and 41 bronze) in all age groups.
The most significant individual achievements, as per the Croatian Olympic Committee’s criteria, were achieved as follows: Male Athlete of The Year, bronze medalist at the World Laser Championships Tonči Stipanović, judoka Karla Prodan – winner of bronze medal at the European Senior Judo Championships and silver medal at the European Younger Senior Judo Championships- who shares the title of the Most Successful Female Athlete with taekwondoka Matea Jelić, winner of silver medal at the European Taekwondo Championships and evident candidate for Tokyo Olympics. Concerning the selection of male and female teams, handball took the overall victory – the Croatian National Male Handball Team, winners of silver medal at the European Men’s Handball Championship, were accompanied in the last minute by the excellent Croatian National Female Handball Team – winners of sensational European bronze from Denmark. Thanks to this success, the Head Coach of the Croatian National Female Handball Team Nenad Šoštarić earned the title of the Coach of the Year, along with previously selected sailing expert Jozo Jakelić. In the competition of the best crews, the European silver of the rowing brothers Sinković "shined" stronger than the European bronze of the sailing brothers Fantela. Due to the less competition in the nominations for the most successful male/female athletes and male/female teams, this year the Croatian Olympic Committee also awarded four Special Awards for sports achievements, and they were awarded to female and male athletes who achieved the highest number of nominations in the last decade, but – due to our great Olympians - have been deprived of their status as laureates. They were given to archer Ivana Buden, diver Goran Čolak and the national female team in fishing at sea and national male crossbow team.
The laureates of the Matija Ljubek Award, awarded by the Croatian Olympic Committee to sports notables and deserving individuals for lifetime achievement, are led by this year Predrag Sloboda, in whose mandate as Head of the Croatian Water Polo Federation the national senior team has won an abundance of trophies, including Olympic, world and Mediterranean gold. Another laureate is Professor Ivan Pal from Koprivnica, responsible – in terms of coaching - for European successes of the handball club RK Podravka (European Champion title from 1996) and many other successes. They are followed by volleyball sports legend Ivica Jelić, who has valuable trophies in his collection both as player and coach. The list of credits from ball sports is completed by another athlete, basketball notable, three-time Olympian and multiple State, European and World Champion Damir Šolman. The laureate of this year’s Matija Ljubek Award is basketball club KK Split - made famous by Šolman during his active sport career – that reached the peak by winning the Triple Crown of the European Club Champion (in 1989, 1990 and 1991).
The Croatian Olympic Committee’s Fair Play Award was presented to the deserving 16-year-old Umag volleyball player Emma Stikić, who undertook an extremely correct gesture at the National Cadet Championships in her club's quarterfinals match with Rijeka. In a dramatic outcome of the game, while playing point-for-point, Ema Stikic acknowledged sportingly correctly her contact with the net in a point that resulted in her team's defeat (2-3) and Rijeka's entering the semifinals.
Croatian Olympic Committee’s Special Recognition for Promoting Sport went to the Croatian Football Television (HNTV), while the Greatest Promoter of Croatian sport in the World was not selected this year.
In addition to congratulating all the recipients of the awards, the Heads of the Croatian Olympic Committee wished the Croatian athletes a Merry Christmas and much more opportunities for training and performances, including new great achievements in the Olympic year 2021, followed by best wishes sent by the "First Ladies of Sport and Olympism" in Croatia - Minister of Sports and Tourism Nikolina Brnjac and Croatian IOC member Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. (COC/VK)
All Croatian Olympic Committee’s laureates in 2020 (by category)
THE MOST SUCCESSFUL MALE ATHLETE - Tonči Stipanović (sailing)
THE MOST SUCCESSFUL FEMALE ATHLETE - Karla Prodan (judo) and Matea Jelić (taekwondo)
THE MOST SUCCESSFUL MALE TEAM - Men's handball team
(Marin Šego, Matej Ašanin, Zlatko Horvat, Vlado Matanović, David Mandić, Valentino Ravlić, Željko Musa, Marino Marić, Marin Šipić, Domagoj Duvnjak, Igor Karačić, Luka Cindrić, Marko Mamić, Luka Stepančić, Matej Hrstić, Luka Šebetić, Ivan Martinović, Josip Šarac)
THE MOST SUCCESSFUL FEMALE TEAM - Women's handball team
(Lucija Bešen, Paula Posavec, Stela Posavec, Dora Krsnik, Ćamila Mičijević, Dora Kalaus, Larissa Kalaus, Katarina Ježić, Tena Japundža, Andrea Šimara, Ana Debelić, Josipa Mamić, Valentina Blažević, Kristina Prkačin, Tea Pijević, Marijeta Vidak, Dejana Milosavljević)
THE MOST SUCCESSFUL SPORTS PAIR, RELAY OR CREW - Coxless pair Martin and Valent Sinković
THE MOST SUCCESSFUL COACH: Jozo Jakelić (sailing) and Nenad Šoštarić (handball)
CROATIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE'S SPECIAL RECOGNITION FOR SPORT ACHIEVEMENTS: Ivana Buden (archery), Goran Čolak (diving), national female team in fishing at sea (Ardena Bajlo, Ljiljana Biro, Blanka Jakić, Nada Miletić, Mirjana Pobor, Katarina Vrcan, Sava Dešković, Željka Marković, Olivera Matičev, Tea Radil, Gordana Sikirić, Dijana Lukšić, Marina Mavrinac Matulja, Nikolina Kotlar, Ela Galzina, Sanja Lotspajić) and national male crossbow team (Domagoj Pereglin, Andrej Krstinić, Zoran Špoler, Marijan Kajfež)
CROATIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE'S MATIJA LJUBEK AWARD (for lifetime achievement):
Predrag Sloboda (Rijeka, water polo)
Ivan Pal (Koprivnica, handball)
Ivica Jelić (Zagreb, volleyball)
Damir Šolman (Split, basketball)
Basketball Club Split
CROATIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE’S FAIR PLAY AWARD - Ema Stikić (volleyball)
SPECIAL RECOGNITION FOR PROMOTING SPORT - Croatian Football Television (HNTV)