Zagreb, December 19th, 2018 – At the traditional ceremony of the Great Day of Croatian Sport, the Croatian NOC (HOO) reminded of athletic achievements in the year soon to be over and rewarded the most successful figures as well as most deserving persons in the field of sports for lifetime achievement.
The hosts were the President of the Croatian Olympic Committee Zlatko Mateša and Secretary General Josip Čop. While HOO leader greeted the notables, led by the Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković Finance Minister Zdravko Marić and representatives of state and city institutions, Secretary General Čop substantiated the success of sports year with figures:
- During 2018 Croatian male and female athletes participated in around 700 World and European competitions and won a total of 292 medals, of which 97 gold, 85 silver and 110 bronze medals.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković also had an adequate answer to these great figures:
- We have increased the budget for the Central State Office for Sport, which means that we are following the athletes in their successes.
And then it was time for the best female and male athletes. The seventh time in a row the most successful athlete according to the Croatian NOC's selection was the athlete Sandra Perković, who has thus become the most-trophy winning athlete in the history of this selection, surpassing the legendary Janica Kostelić by one trophy. The 'Queen of Discus' announced great achievements of our Olympians at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. The Croatian NOC’s Council proclaimed the footballer who won all this year's prestigious individual awards in his sport, captain of the Croatian National Football Team Luka Modrić, the Athlete of the Year. Unfortunately, because of the obligations in the Real jersey at the FIFA Club World Cup, Luka could not attend the selection and therefore his father Stipe received the award on his behalf.
The Croatian NOC had a hard time to bring a fair decision in the team competition selection, because it was really not easy to decide which success was greater - gold won at the World Tennis Cup or silver won at the FIFA World Cup. The football medal was won in the world's most popular sport and in the most difficult competition possible, which brought "the blazers" advantage in the team category. Their success had to be valued also in awarding the Croatian NOC’s Special Recognitions, without forgetting the brilliant tennis players as well. The Croatian National Football Team was proclaimed the biggest sports promoter of Croatia in the world for their performance at the FIFA World Cup in Russia, while the Croatian NOC’s Special Recognition for promotion of sports was presented to the Croatian National Tennis Team (Marin Ćilić, Borna Ćorić, Ivan Dodig, Mate Pavić and Franko Škugor), the winning team at the last edition of Davis Cup in the current form.
Evidence that football players took the "cream" in this year's selection of the Croatian NOC was also visible in the category of the most successful coaches. Despite the strong competition with several world champions’ coaches, one of the most popular Croats - Football Head Coach Zlatko Dalić - was the winner.
Of total of three nominations for the most successful female team, Croatia's National Karate Team consisting of: Ana Marija Bujas Čelan, Marina Barac, Ana Lenard and Alessandra Hasani was proclaimed the most successful. At the European Championships in Novi Sad they won a bronze medal and in this category they were competing for the award with female crossbow and volleyball team.
Concerning the most successful crew, sports pair or relay, there were two pairs with World Champion titles competing in this category. The rowing brothers Martin and Valent Sinković are almost subscribers to this award. Based on the double (European and World) crown in their new discipline – coxless pairs – they were re-selected the Crew of the Year. It is interesting that the Fantela brothers reached this year the world gold in the new discipline (Olympic class 49er). This is probably the announcement of fraternal rivalry for this award in the future.
The Croatian NOC’s Fair Play Award was presented to the cyclist Marin Ranteš (BMX Freestyle) who gave – during the World Cup in Canada- the wheel from his bike to his greatest rival in the fight for gold in order to finish his performance after the tire blow-out. Ranteš chose the silver "colored" fairness instead of gold and deserved not only this trophy, but also a long applause of the full hotel Westin’s Crystal Hall.
The Matija Ljubek Award, presented by the Croatian NOC for lifetime achievement, went this year to Vjekoslav Šafranić (martial arts) and Branko Omazić (sports of persons with disabilities) from Zagreb and Danko Jerković (water polo) and Ante Tanfara (karate and basketball) from Šibenik. The handball club Rudar from Rude near Samobor is the only sport collective whose representatives have been presented this award. This year's winner of IOC Trophy "Olympism in Action" is the Croatian NOC’s Vice President and member of its Council Morana Paliković Gruden. The officials of the European Olympic Committees, informed about her perseverance and consistency in the fight for equal status of women in sports, rewarded her for work on improving the status of women in sports.
The celebration of the Great Day of Croatian Sport was the 'endpoint' of an extremely successful sports year, which the Croatian NOC’s President Zlatko Mateša characterized as a year of dreams, in which almost every national sport federation had a great achievement.