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Slovenia holds first post-lockdown competitions
Ozbe Kuhar © Matic Klansek

While it wasn’t a FIS-sanctioned event, some exciting news out of Slovenia where snowboard competition has returned to the slopes as the world emerges from corona-19 pandemic lockdown.

The Slovenian ski and snowboard resort of Kanin was one of the first in Europe to reopen to the public for spring riding earlier this month after the easing of the lockdown restrictions in the in the country, with Slovenian snowboarders jumping at the chance to return to snow spring riding.

Perhaps even more exciting than the reopening of resort, however, was the Slovenian government’s decision that national-level sporting events could also take place (with restrictions, of course) - news which immediately mobilized the snowboard and freeski community to come together at Kanin to construct some jumps and hold the Slovenian big air national championships on Saturday, May 23rd.

“According to our data, Saturday’s big air national championships was the first official snow sports competition in the world to be held since the pandemic lockdown restrictions have being eased,˝ said Peter Podlogar, the chief of snowboard competition in Kanin this past weekend. “The whole snowboard and ski freestyle community in Slovenia was stoked because of the chance for some spring shredding, big air training and competition,” at the resort that lies in the western part of Slovenia, 2200 meters above the sea level with a views looking out on the Adriatic Sea.

The competition in Kanin was an “open” competition, meaning that things like FIS points and quotas weren’t a factor in determining entries. All competitors were given three runs, with the best two counted for the final score and with both-ways rotation factoring into the scoring.

With a solid field of Slovenia riders on hand and the stoke levels high for everyone in Kanin, it was a hugely positive weekend for all and an inspiring moment for snowboarders around the world who are looking for some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. 

In the women’s competition it was Urska Pribosic who took top spot. An experienced World Cup rider, the 31-year-old now adds Saturday’s gold to a 2019/20 season that saw her claim two top ten positions in World Cup action while finishing 12th overall in the big air standings.

The silver medal on Saturday went to 21-year-old Kaja Verdnik, an experienced half pipe rider and 2018 Olympian, while the bronze was won by up-and-coming 18-year-old Tinkara Tanja Valcl.

On the mens side the gold medal went to a legend of the sport, as 37-year-old Marko Grilc returned to competition for one day and walked away the Slovenia national big air champion. Though the Ljubljana native is officially retired from competitive snowboarding, he returned for this special event to give his support for the local young riders.

As it turned out, however, the 2009 Air &Style champion and the winner of the 2010 World Cup Big Air competition in London (GBR) showed that his skills are still at an exceptional level, taking top spot ahead of Ozbe Kuhar, a 15-year-old rider who attended Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games as the only Slovenian rider this past February. The bronze went to experienced 22-year-old Europa Cup rider Max Kralj Kos.

Naj Mekinc, this year´s Europa Cup overall winner and the only Slovenian men’s rider who is competing on the World Cup circuit, was unfortunately watching from the crowd due to injury issues.

Beside the elite riders also the young guns were in action. In the junior, boys and girls category the following riders claimed the gold: Ozbe Kuhar, Aljaz Sladic, Niko Lemark and Marko’s daughter Emma Grilc, making for possibly the first time that a father and daughter have both claimed gold at a national championships-level snowboard competition.

 
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