STA, 23 March 2019 - Robert Kranjec, one of the best Slovenian ski jumpers of all time, bid an emotional farewell to his fans after a career spanning 21 years with one final flight down the Planica ski-flying hill on Saturday.
Appearing in 325 Ski Jumping World Cup events, Kranjec tallied 15 victories and a total of 27 podium finishes, team events included, since his debut in Trondheim in 1998.
He was part of the team that won bronze at the Salt Lake City Olympic Games in 2002 and ten years later became the world champion in ski flying, his flagship discipline, with a jump of 244 metres.
Indeed, it was his exceptionally good feeling for flying which earned him the moniker the Flying Carniolan (Leteči Kranjec), something that he demonstrated once again today.
Having become the first jumper to cross the 200-metre mark 200 times at Planica last year, Kranjec improved this special record today, landing at 213.5 metres, in his 212nd over the 200-metre flight.
In his final feat he was cheered on by a crowd of 21,200 gathered in the Alpine valley offered referred to as the "cradle" of the sport.
Among those who came to pay him tribute was Primož Roglič, his former team mate who went on to become Slovenia's cycling sensation. He presented Kranjec with a yellow jersey.
Kranjec, reaching the outrun of the ski-flying hill after the first series of today's team event, which saw Slovenia finish third, sent items of his gear flying among the fans as keepsakes before being overwhelmed by a wave of hugs and cheers.
"Thanks to the fans! Thank you for cheering me on for every flight and thank you for supporting the team," the 37-year-old said in an emotional goodbye.
His first individual World Cup victory in Kuusamo in 2005 was his sole individual win in ski jumping, the remaining six being achieved on the ski-flying hills of Planica, Vikersund and Kulm.
Apart from winning the 2012 ski-flying championship, he won two more team world championship medals, the team ski-jumping bronze in Oslo in 2011 and bronze in the ski-flying team event in Vikersund a year later.
This was his last medal in such a major competition. What followed was a difficult period in which he struggled with injury.
First he had difficulties with his elbow, but he still finished top of the podium two times in the 2015/16 season. When he appeared to be coming back to the top, he suffered a bad knee injury just before the next season, followed by surgery and a lengthy recovery.
After struggling through last year's season, he considering retiring, but decided to give it one more try. It was his back that gave him problems this time, so he decided to call it quits.
"I've decided this will be my last journey to Planica, because I will end by career in Planica," Kranjec said ahead of today's event saying that he made the decision in January.