14 Jan 2019, 18:00 PM

STA, 14 January 2019 - Slovenian cyclist Janez Brajkovič announced on his blog on Monday that his sample taken during last year's Tour of Croatia had tested positive for a banned substance, earning him a ten-month suspension from the International Cycling Union (UCI).

The 35-year-old from Metlika handed over the sample, which tested positive for methylhexanamine, on 18 April 2018 as part of the main men's cycling stage race in Croatia, which is a part of the UCI Europe Tour.

The sample reportedly contained an extremely low level of the stimulant and energy-boosting drug, which the member of the Slovenian professional cycling team Adria Mobil believes is connected to his use of food supplements.

The Slovenian did not appeal the test results, while attributing the failed test to one of the food supplements he consumed being contaminated with the drug.

Admitting that the substance is banned in professional cycling, Brajkovič said it was a "small quantity, because as far as I know the concentration was 20 to 40 times lower compared to samples of other athletes," he said on the blog.

"I could fight this and bring the case to the anti-doping court, where it would be reviewed right from the beginning. But to be honest with you, I neither have the will nor the money to challenge this, which is why I have accepted the penalty."

In addition to being the world under-23 time trial champion in 2004, Brajkovič's biggest achievements include wins at the Criterium du Dauphine (2010), the Tour de Georgia (2007) and the Tour of Slovenia (2012).

He was ninth at the Tour de France in 2012 as a member of Astana Pro Team, which was the best ranking for a Slovenian until Primož Roglič finished forth last year.

Brajkovič, who was also a member of the professional teams Bahrain Merida, RadioSchack and Discovery Channel, said that testing positive for doping was not actually the worst thing that had happened to him in his career.

"I was a victim of mobbing and an outcast in a team because I did not want to expose myself to the deadly consequences of doping.

"During the Tour de France, a team mate even started strangling me because of this. After I signed the contract, they said I was nobody and valueless and that they will make sure I never race again."

Adria Mobil, which Brajkovič represented at the Tour of Croatia, said it had been informed about the positive test last July, but added that it did not need to suspend the cyclist under the anti-doping rules.

"Considering the quantity and type [of the substance], there was no direct and immediate suspension of the cyclist. Under an agreement with the competitor and the UCI and under the team policy on doping, Brajkovič has not competed since last July," the team said in a press release.

"The competitor has been cooperating with the UCI all the time in proving the origin of the banned substance found in his sample," it added.

Adria Mobil, which did not extend its contract with Brajkovič, noted that the cyclist had proven the failed test was a consequence of his carelessness. He purchased the food supplement on-line, and the label did not say that it contained the banned substance.

The usual penalty for such violations is a 24-month ban, but the UCI has reduced it to ten months due to these circumstances, the team said, adding that only the result from the Tour of Slovenia would be deleted from his record.

02 Jan 2019, 12:00 PM

STA, 31 December 2019 - Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak has confirmed for the STA he is returning to the national team after an absence of more than a year.

Oblak had not played for the national team under previous managers, Tomaž Kavčič and Igor Benedejčič, but it was expected he would return now that Matjaž Kek has taken over.

He says he will now be available for the qualifying for the Euro 2020. "My future in the national team was never questionable and my decision was not adopted based on the appointment of the new manager," he said.

Many football experts see Oblak's return as crucial if the team is to put behind a long dry spell, though some have also raised questions about how it will affect the team given that he stayed away during the painful downward spiral.

"I have a very positive outlook on that. I believe that I can give the team a lot and help it achieve the goals that we have set for the next qualifying.

"As far as the fans are concerned, I think it is everyone's wish that the results the team has been achieving lately change... I have been in touch with some of the players but there has never been any talk about hard feelings or any problems," he said.

Oblak, one of the world's best goal keepers who has also been nominated twice for the Ballon d'Or, last played for the national team in October 2017.

19 Dec 2018, 15:00 PM

STA, 19 December 2018 - After clinching her first Alpine Ski World Cup win this season in yesterday's downhill in Italy's Val Gardena, Ilka Štuhec followed it up on Wednesday with a win in the women's super-G at the same venue to complete her comeback to the elite after a serious knee injury.

The reigning downhill world champion finished the race ahead of Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein and Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria, who both were only 0.05 seconds behind the Slovenian.

This is the ninth World Cup career win for the 28-year-old Maribor native and the third in the super-G, with her previous best this season in the discipline being 10th place in Lake Louise, Canada.

"I skied relaxed. There were still some mistakes, but it seems it was enough. I was a bit surprised when I arrived in the finish, especially when I saw how close together we are. It's great!," she told reporters.

"Today the split seconds were in my favour, and someone else could be favoured some other time. It's crazy anyhow," Štuhec said, admitting that the "season is long, I'm facing preparations for the January races."

With the World Cup win number nine, Štuhec became the second-best Slovenian skier in this respect, and now trails only the legendary Tina Maze, who holds what are probably an unreachable 26 wins.

It was only the sixth race for Štuhec after she missed the entire 2017/2018 season and the Winter Olympics as she tore a cruciate ligament in her knee which required surgery and months of rehab.

The double win in Val Gardena propelled her to fifth place in the overall standings with 302 points, with Mikaela Shiffrin of the US being in the lead with 689 points. In the super-G standings, the Slovenian is fourth with 144 points.

Štuhec will appear in the World Cup next on 12 and 13 January in Austria's St Anton, with both the downhill and super-G scheduled.

18 Dec 2018, 15:41 PM

Ilka Štuhec, who tore a cruciate ligament in 2017 and thus missed this year’s Winter Olympics, is now back in full force on the slopes, taking first place at Val Gardena, Italy. The skier finished 0.14 seconds faster than Italy's Nicol Delago, and 0.51 ahead of Austria's Ramona Siebenhofer.

The win puts Štuhec in second place in the season's downhill rankings, with 158 points to the Austrian Nicole Schmidhofer's 226 points.

Overall the Slovene is 8th, with 202 points, far behind America's Mikaela Shiffrin, who has 689 points.

13 Dec 2018, 18:30 PM

STA, 13 December 2018 - Slovenian snowboarder Tim Mastnak opened the World Cup season with a win in the parallel slalom in Italy's Carezza on Thursday, beating Benjamin Karl of Austria convincingly in the finals.

The 27-year-old from Celje first defeated Darren Gardner of Canada in the round of 16, then Italian Aaron March in the quarter-finals and Sebastian Kislinger in the semi-finals.

In the finals, he was 0.73 seconds faster than the Austrian veteran Karl, who has won a total of 15 World Cup events.

"It's a perfect start to the season. It couldn't have been better," Mastnak described his second ever win the World Cup, with the first one coming in March in Scuol, Switzerland.

10 Dec 2018, 09:47 AM

STA, 9 December 2018 - Finnish biathlete Kaisa Mäkäräinen won the women's 10-kilometre pursuit World Cup event at Pokljuka on Sunday ahead of Italian Dorothea Wierer in a repeat of Saturday's sprint standings. Slovakia's Paulina Fialkova came in third.

Mäkäräinen and Wierer both hit all the targets, but the Finn outpaced the Italian by more than 40 seconds on the skis (+41.3).

Flawless at shooting, Fialkova moved ahead from eight starting position to finish third (+59.2/0), overtaking Italian Lisa Vitozzi just before the finish line (+1:01.5/0).

"I knew I must be fast because Wierer shoots fast. I didn't feel as strong as yesterday but it was enough. I like Pokljuka, the conditions aren't so tough cos there's not much wind," said Mäkäräinen.

Weirer remains in the lead in the overall standings, having collected 144 points in Pokljuka events. Mäkäräinen is second with 131 points, followed by Fialkova with 129.

No Slovenian competed in the women's pursuit.

* Results:
 1 Kaisa Mäkäräinen (FIN)       29:16.9/0
 2 Dorothea Wierer (ITA)         + 41.3/0
 3 Paulina Fialkova (SLK)          59.2/2
 4 Lisa Vitozzi (ITA)            1:01.5/0
 5 Marte Olsbu Roeiseland (NOR)  1:22.1/1
 6 Clare Egan (US)               1:22.4/1
 7 Irina Kryuko (BLR)            1:26.6/0
 8 Irina Starik (RUS)            1:35.6/0
 9 Franziska Preuss (GER)        1:43.7/1
10 Evgeniya Pavlova (RUS)        1:48.4/0

- overall World Cup standings (3):
 1 Dorothea Wierer (ITA)         144
 2 Kaisa Mäkäräinen (FIN)        131
 3 Paulina Fialkova (SLK)        129
 4 Lisa Vitozzi (ITA)            121
 5 Monika Hojnisz (POL)          104
 6 Julija Džima (UKR)             98
 7 Franziska Preuss (GER)         95
 8 Irina Starik (RUS)             92
 9 Irina Kryuko (BLR)             87
10 Julia Simon (FRA)              78

Boe wins men's pursuit at Pokljuka

STA, 9 December 2018 - Norwegian biathlete Johannes Thinges Boe won the men's 12.5km pursuit race at the Biathlon World Cup meet on the Pokljuka Plateau on Sunday, pipping France's Quentin Fillon Maillet for the victory in a photo finish.

The younger of the Boe brothers had a 48 second lead ahead of the runner-up before the last standing position shooting stop, but missed two shots.

Russia's Aleksander Loginov hit all the targets, heading for the final lap a few metres ahead of Boe, but Boe overtook him at the 12th kilometre.

Loginov fell just below the top of last climb, which enabled Maillet to squeeze ahead, but Boe was first
through the finish line.

Boe, who is in the lead in the overall World Cup standings after winning Tuesday's sprint on Pokljuka, ended the race with three missed shots 0.1 of a second ahead of Maillet, who hit all the 20 targets.

Loginov finished third with one missed shot and 1.9 seconds behind the winner.

The best Slovenian, Jakov Fak came in 22nd. Having missed one target he finished 1:57 minutes behind the winner. His team mate Miha Dovžan was 49th.

"I cannot be completely satisfied, but I'm happy to have partly achieved the goal of making progress. One missed shot is solid enough result, but it's not perfect," Fak commented, adding that he still had reserve running-wise.

"It's great to compete in front of the home crowd, it makes you fly ... But shooting at home is always hardest psychically because you get cheered for each shot," he added.

* Results:
- men's 12.5 km pursuit:
 1 Johannes Thinges Boe (NOR)   30:20.4/3
 2 Quentin Fillon Maillet (FRA)   + 0.1/0
 3 Aleksander Loginov (RUS)         1.4/1
 4 Simon Eder (AUT)                31.2/0
 5 Julian Eberhard (AUT)           32.5/1
 6 Tarjei Boe (NOR)                32.9/1
 7 Henrik L'Abee-Lund (NOR)        35.1/1
 8 Lukas Hofer (ITA)               35.8/2
 9 Benjamin Weger (SUI)            35.9/2
10 Antonin Guigonnat (FRA)         42.5/3
22 Jakov Fak (SLO)               1:57.1/1
49 Miha Dovžan (SLO)             4:18.1/4

- overall World Cup standings (3):
 1 Johannes Thinges Boe (NOR)    156
 2 Simon Eder (AUT)              123
 3 Antonin Guigonnat (FRA)       119
 4 Aleksander Loginov (RUS)      108
 5 Quentin Fillon Maillet (FRA)   93
 6 Tarjei Boe (NOR)               87
 7 Simon Desthieux (FRA)          81
  . Sebastian Samuelsson (SWE)    81
  . Michal Krčmar (CZE)           81
10 Artem Prima (UKR)              78
17 Jakov Fak (SLO)                64
07 Dec 2018, 18:03 PM

STA, 7 December 2018 - Norwegian biathlete Johannes Thingnes Boe won on Friday the second individual men's race, a 10-km sprint, hosted by Slovenia's Pokjuka as part of the opening meet of the Biathlon World Cup season.

Boe, who missed one shot, was followed in second place by Antonin Guigonnat of France (+16.1 seconds), while third place went to Russia's Alexandr Loginov (+16.5).

Slovenia's biathletes did not have a good day, with Jakov Fak, who finished fourth in Thursday's opening race, missing three shots to end up in 39th place as the best Slovenian.

* Results:
 1 Johannes Thingnes Boe (Nor)     23:46.3/1
 2 Antonin Guigonnat (Fra)          + 16.1/0
 3 Alexandr Loginov (Rus)             16.4/0
 4 Tarjei Boe (Nor)                   31.2/1
 5 Benedikt Doll (Ger)                32.5/0
 6 Sindre Pettersen (Nor)             32.9/0
 7 Simon Desthieux (Fra)              35.1/2
 8 Henrik L'Abee-Lund (Nor)           35.8/1
 9 Simon Eder (Aut)                   35.9/0
10 Michal Krčmar (Cze)                42.5/0
 39 Jakov Fak (Slo)                 1:40.4/3
 45 Miha Dovžan (Slo)               1:45.1/2
 62 Klemen Bauer (Slo)              2:04.8/4
 76 Rok Tršan (Slo)                 2:24.2/1
101 Mitja Drinovec (Slo)            3:37.4/4

- World Cup standings (2):
 1 Johannes Thingnes Boe (Nor)         96
 2 Antonin Guigonnat (Fra)             88
 3 Simon Eder (Aut)                    80
 4 Martin Fourcade (Fra)               77
 5 Alexandr Loginov (Rus)              60
 6 Sebastian Samuelsson (Swe)          59
 7 Michal Krčmar (Cze)                 57
 8 Simon Desthieux (Fra)               55
 9 Johannes Kühn (Ger)                 54
10 Tarjei Boe (Nor)                    49
14 Jakov Fak (Slo)                     45
07 Dec 2018, 10:20 AM

STA, 6 December 2018 - Slovenia's Jakov Fak started the new Biathlon World Cup season at the home venue of Pokljuka with a 4th place in the men's individual 20-km race on Thursday. Victory went to Martin Fourcade of France.

Fak was 34.4 seconds behind the winner as he missed one shot to squander a good chance for a podium finish.

Also finishing ahead of the Olympic runner-up in the discipline were Johannes Kühn of Germany, who was 4.2 seconds behind the winner and the Austrian veteran Simon Eder, who finished 19.7 seconds behind the French.

It was the 75th Biathlon World Cup win for Fourcade, who was perfect at shooting, as were Kühn and Eder.

It was the fifth win in a row for the French. "I like it here. I'm proud of winning race after race," he told reporters.

Fak was meanwhile not happy about the missed shot. "My legs were not in the best shape on the track. I hope that it will be better tomorrow," he said in reference to the men's sprint on Friday.

They will be competing without a day of rest, as today's race had been scheduled to take place yesterday but was moved to today due to thick fog.

"I hope that everybody got tired today. The younger you are, the easier is to recuperate. And I'm not among the youngest any more," said the 31-year-old.

The race will be followed by the women's 15-km individual race, starting at 2:15 PM. Slovenia will be represented by Urška Poje, Polona Klemenčič and Lea Einfalt.

* Results:
 1 Martin Fourcade (FRA)       47:09,2/0 missed shots
 2 Johannes Kühn (GER)           + 4.2/0
 3 Simon Eder (AUT)               19.7/2
 4 Jakov Fak (SLO)                34.4/1
 5 Simon Schempp (GER)            38.6/1
 6 Sergij Semenov (UKR)           45.0/0
 7 Johannes Thingnes Boe (NOR)  1:11.9/3
 8 Antonin Guigonnat (FRA)      1:13.5/1
 9 Sebastian Samuelsson (SWE)   1:18.5/2
10 Lars Helge Birkeland (NOR)   1:22.0/1
56 Rok Tršan (SLO)              4:02.6/2
71 Klemen Bauer (SLO)           5:14.0/5
75 Miha Dovžan (SLO)            5:43.3/5
92 Mitja Drinovec (SLO)         7:32.9/5

Ukraine's Dzhima wins women's 15km biathlon event at Pokljuka

STA, 6 December 2018 - Ukrainian biathlete Yuliia Dzhima is the winner of Thursday's individual 15km event for women as part of the Biathlon World Cup meet at Slovenia's Pokljuka, followed by Monika Hojnisz of Poland and Marketa Davidova of the Czech Republic.

The winner did not miss any of her shots and finished the race in 43:06.6, beating Hojnisz by 5.9 seconds and Davidova by 16.5 seconds, both of whom had to run one penalty loop.

It was the first World Cup win for Dzhima, who is coached by Slovenian Uroš Velepec. "Last year I had hoped for a win. This year I decided to get it. I'm happy and I hope that this is not my last win," she told reporters.

The best out of the three Slovenians to compete in the race was Lea Einfalt, who finished 77th, more than six minutes behind Dzhima in what was her debut appearance in the Biathlon World Cup.

Einfalt, who competed in cross-country skiing until last year and today's race was only her fourth ever as a biathlete, missed four shots, but she said she was satisfied with the overall performance.

"But I will be really happy when I manage to shoot perfectly and run fast. I was nervous a little bit. I can't wait for Saturday, the ice has been broken and I know I'll be much more relaxed," she said about the women's sprint.

* Results:
 1 Yuliia Dzhima (UKR)     43:06.6/0 missed shots
 2 Monika Hojnisz (POL)     +  5.9/1
 3 Marketa Davidova (CZE)     16.5/1
 4 Paulina Fialkova (SVK)     19.5/2
 5 Baiba Bendika (LAT)        20.8/0
 6 Lisa Vitozzi (ITA)         27.1/1
 7 Dorothea Wierer (ITA)      33.4/2
 8 Hanna Oeberg (SWE)         49.1/2
 9 Lisa Hauser (AUT)          55.3/1
10 Franziska Preuss (GER)     59.1/1
77 Lea Einfalt (SLO)        6:06.4/4
78 Polona Klemenčič (SLO)   6:37.9/4
91 Urška Poje (SLO)         7:50.0/5
03 Dec 2018, 10:20 AM

STA, 2 December 2018 - Norway and France got off to a good start in the Biathlon World Cup, their mixed relay teams taking the top spots in Pokljuka on Sunday.

Thekla Brun-Lie and Lars Helge Birkeland took the honours in the 2x6-kilometre event, finishing the course in 38 minutes and 26.7 seconds, 8.5 seconds ahead of Austria.

Ukraine finished third, 20.7 seconds behind Norway, despite needing only one reload

The Slovenian pairing of Jakov Fak and Urša Poje were 11th.

In the double relay - two runs of 6km and two of 7.5km - France proved unbeatable, mostly due to Martin Fourcade's flawless third leg.

The Swiss four was surprisingly second 38.7 seconds behind, while Italy took third place.

Slovenia did not compete in the second event.

The World Cup continues at Pokljuka on Wednesday with a men's 20-kilometre race.

30 Nov 2018, 11:50 AM

STA, 29 November 2018 - Just 14 months after claiming the title of European champion, Slovenia have been denied a place in the 2019 World Cup after a crushing 82:54 defeat against Ukraine on Thursday.

The seventh defeat in nine games cemented Slovenia's ranking as the worst team in group 1 even as they brought Ukraine closer to the top three spots that come with a ticket to the final competition in China.

Qualifying was always going to be a tall order for the reigning European champions, who have been left without the players that were instrumental in winning the title in Istanbul in 2017.

NBA player Goran Dragić ended his career in the team, the naturalised American Anthony Randolph skipped the qualifications for health reasons, and Luka Dončić was not allowed to play by officials of the Dallas Mavericks, where he has just started his NBA career.

There are three more games to go until the end of the qualifying. Slovenia will take on Latvia in Ljubljana this weekend before finishing the round in February, first on the road against Turkey and in the end at home with Ukraine.

28 Nov 2018, 10:20 AM

STA, 27 November 2018 - Matjaž Kek has been appointed the new head coach of the Slovenian national football team, the Slovenian Football Association (NZS) announced on Tuesday. The 57-year-old returns to the helm of the national team after a successful stint in 2007-2011, when he led Slovenia to their last major competition, the 2010 World Cup.

The NZS said at a press conference in Brdo pri Kranju that Kek would coach the team in the qualifiers for the 2020 Euro and for the 2022 World Cup, and at the World Cup, if he managed to take Slovenia to the tournament in Qatar.

"It is an honour and a pleasure to be entrusted the position of the national team head coach. It is a great motivation and a huge challenge at the same time," Kek told the press, adding he was back to do something good for Slovenian football.

"If the situation was ideal, I wouldn't be here. But let's look into the future, as we have potential, including in the young selections. The main task will be to put it all together and produce good results," he added.

NZS president Radenko Mijatović said that Kek was exactly what the Slovenian team needed at the moment, adding that he would have the full backing of the football federation.

The Maribor native is replacing Igor Benedejčič, who lead the team in the last two matches in the UEFA Nations League as interim coach following the dismissal of Tomaž Kavčič in mid-October.

Kek will be under some pressure to take the team back on track after a dismal performance in the new international competitions replacing friendly matches and serving in part as qualifiers for the 2020 Euro.

Slovenia failed to score a single win in League C, the third tier in the competition, and was relegated to the lowest-ranking League D, with the unconvincing play and some players having problems with loyalty to the team were calling for change.

Kek also saw success in Croatia

A large part of the public had wanted Kek to take over after he had successfully managed the Croatian club Rijeka, taking the club to their first ever Croatian championship title in 2017, and finishing as runners-up in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

After Kek recently parted ways with Rijeka after five and a half years, he emerged as a logical candidate to replace Kavčič, who struggled to make order in the team which had also faced a number of injuries and cancellations by key players.

A son of a football player, Kek started playing for Maribor in 1979, and later played in Austria's Spittal and GAK. He returned to his native town in 1995 to play another four seasons for Maribor, winning two national championships and two league cups.

After returning at 38, he studied football coaching in Maribor and soon replaced Bojan Prašnikar at the helm of the Slovenian perennial champions. He took Maribor to two national championships and a national cup win in the 2002-2004 period.

Before signing with Rijeka, he also briefly coached Al-Ittihad of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the 2011-2012 season.

Kek joined the national team in 2006 as the head coach of the U-16 team, and in the following year succeeded Brane Oblak as the coach of the senior team, leading Slovenia in 49 matches to score 20 wins, nine draws and 20 losses.

Under Kek, Slovenia reached their highest FIFA ranking ever, at 15th in the autumn of 2010. He is the only Slovenian coach apart from Srečko Katanec to take Slovenia to a major competition (Euro or World Cup).

Kek and Katanec also hold the distinction of being the only individuals to both play for and coach the national team, with the former having his only cap for Slovenia in November 1992 at a friendly match with Cyprus.

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