Croatia – The Land of Athletes
Sport in Croatia plays an important role in Croatian society, which is reflected in its popularity among Croatian people. Croatia is well known for its sporting achievements and strong history of the sport. Sport in Croatia today is celebrating a large amount of sporting success such as football, handball, water polo, skiing, athletics, mixed martial arts etc. Croatians take great pride in sports and its considered to be one of the main things to do in Croatia. Sport, in general, unite one nation together as one, so let us look at the accomplishments of Croatian athletes 🙂
Starting with football, the most popular sport in Croatia, I have a lot to say. It is governed by Croatian Football Federation (HNS). Prva HNL is country’s league system, which is ranked 17th in Europe by UEFA. GNK Dinamo Zagreb is the most successful football club in Croatia and is champion in 2018, with the total of 19 championships. Second, to Dinamo is Hajduk Split with six championships, the last one in the year 2005.
The Croatian Cup is the main tournament in Croatian football and Croatian Super cup has consisted between champions of Prva HNL and Croatian Cup.
Croatian National team is the pride of Croatia. They won the bronze medal in 1998 FIFA World Cup, the same year Davor Suker won the golden boot as the top goal scorer. In 2018, they won silver in FIFA World Cup after the finals against France National team. This year the Golden boot was given to Croatian captain Luka Modric.
Through the History, handball in Croatia has proven itself as prolific, on the National team level as well as on the club level. In the second half of the 20th century, RK Bjelovar has dominated Croatian handball and in the 1970s, they won five Yugoslavian league championships. Later on, RK Zagreb took the role of best Croatian handball team as they won every Croatian First Handball League.
The club has reached EHF Champions League finals six times, winning two times (1992 and 1993).
The National Handball team is currently ranked 10th by the International Handball Federation. In 1996 and 2004 Summer Olympics, Croatia won gold medals. The gold medal also fell in teams hand in 2003 World Men’s Handball Championship. In 1995 and 2005 the team won the 2nd place as well as in 2009 Championship as hosts.
In European Men’s Handball Championships in 1994, Croatians came in third, and in 2008 and 2010, they won silver medals.
The Croatian National Water polo team won gold medals at the 2007 and 2017 FINA World Championships and bronze medals in 2009 and 2011. The team has also won gold at 2012 Olympic Games and silver at 1996 and 2016 Olympic Games. The gold was theirs at the 2010 European Championship and silver in 1999 and 2003 European Championships.
Croatian water polo clubs were 13 times Euro league champions. HAVK Mladost from Zagreb were European champions seven times.
Croatian Basketball clubs were Euro league champions five times: KK Split three times (in 1989, 1990 and 1991) and KK Cibona two times (1985 and 1986). The Croatian National Basketball team won silver at the 1992 Olympic Basketball tournament, the bronze medal at the 1994 FIBA World Championship and bronze medals at the 1993 and 1995 EuroBasket.
Croatian players such as Dino Radja, Kresimir Cosic, and Toni Kukoc were among the first foreign players to enter the NBA in the United States. The most famous Croatian basketball player was Drazen Petrovic who was later posthumously voted the best European Basketball player in history, by players at 2013 FIBA EuroBasket.
Croatian athletes have had considerable success in individual sports as well, where they represented sport in Croatia in international competitions at the highest level.
Janica Kostelic is the most successful female in alpine skiing ski racer in the history of the Winter Olympic Games. She is the only women to win four gold medals in alpine skiing at the Winter Olympic skiing events (in 2002 and 2006), also the only female to win three gold medals in alpine skiing in one Olympics (2002). She was the World Cup overall champion in 2001, 2003 and 2006.
Ivica Kostelic, Janica’s brother, was the 2003 World Champion in slalom and the Men’s overall Champion at the 2011 Alpine skiing World Cup. He is a four-time silver medallist as of 2014.
Sandra Perkovic is a Croatian discus thrower. Sandra is two times Olympic (2012 and 2016) and World (2013 and 2017) champion and four-time European champion (2010, 2012, 2014, 2016)
Blanka Vlasic is Croatian athlete who specializes in the high jump. She won the World Junior Championships in Athletics in both 2000 and 2002. Later on, she broke her own record by winning her first senior medal at the World Indoor Championship in 2004. She became the World Champion in 2007 also taking the same medal in 2009. She ranks second in all-time high jump rankings.
Mirko Filipovic (Cro Cop) is Croatian mixed martial artist, a former kickboxer, and an amateur boxer. Cro Cop is the 2006 pride Open-Weight Grand Prix Champion, the 2012 K-1 World Grand Prix Champion and the 2016 Rizin Open-Weight Grand Prix Champion becoming the second fighter in the world to win mixed martial arts and kickboxing championships and tournaments.
Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon in 2001. He was a member of Croatian tennis team to win the Davis Cup in 2005. He also has two bronze medals from the Olympics in 1992 in Barcelona (individually and in doubles with Goran Prpic). His career ranking on the ladder was his second place in 1994.
Ivanisevic is still today one of the most famous and most popular Croatian athletes in the country and world. That was certainly contributed by his often unconventional behavior and to an entertaining press conference.
He is a world recorder by the number of aces. In even five seasons, they achieved more than 1000, and in 1996 at the most – 1477 aces. Only three tennis players besides him managed to achieve more than 1000 aces in the season.
Goran Ivanisevic completed a professional career with 22 singles titles and 9 titles in the pair.
Marin Cilic is Croatian tennis player. Cilic has won 18 ATP singles titles, including 2014 US Open. As of now, Cilic is ranked third in the world. He participated in big tournaments like Australian Open and Wimbledon Championship.