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23 February 2021 | in Winter FISU World University Games, FISU Athletes

20-year anniversary for Zakopane 2001 Winter Universiade Gold Medallist Andrej Šporn

The Slovenian Alpine skier – who raced to three medals across three Winter Universiades – reminisces about his life-changing experiences


Andrej Sporn VancouverSlovenian alpine skier Andrej Šporn, triple Universiade medallist and Olympian

Andrej Šporn is a three-time Winter Universiade medalist – and these days, as he puts it, a “professional father.”


Šporn, 39, who retired from competitive ski racing in 2017, enjoys skiing, albeit not as fast, and other athletic activities with his two children.


“During these Corona times, when kids are at home a lot and can’t be at school, I’m trying to give them as much of my time and teach them as much as possible,” Šporn tells Brian Pinelli, in the latest edition of the FISU University Legend Interview Series.

Zakopane 2001Opening Ceremony of the Zakopane 2001 Winter UniversiadeIt has been two decades since the Slovenian Alpine ski racer charged to a slalom gold medal at the Zakopane 2001 Winter Universiade. Šporn, then 19, said it was a wonderful experience, both on and off the mountain, that shaped his World Cup skiing career.


“This win was one of the crucial points in my career,” Sporn said. “Winning in slalom - I really believed in myself and from there my career was going up.


“Zakopane Universiade changed my career,” the Slovenian skier said. “I really liked the time I spent in Zakopane.”


Šporn built upon the experience at his second Winter Universiade, two years later in Tarvisio, Italy, just across the Slovenian border. He raced at high speed en route to a downhill silver medal. Šporn’s accomplishment was particularly impressive, considering his quick transition from ski racing’s most technical event to its fastest and most daring.


“It was really a well-prepared downhill, it was perfect,” the Slovenian says about the Tarvisio course. “For me, it was the longest downhill I had skied to that point – I was so dead in the finish area.


“I always liked the speed, I always liked adrenaline,” he added, about ski racing’s most thrilling event.”


Andrej SpornHowever, it was back to slalom for Šporn, two years after that, at the Innsbruck 2005 Winter Universiade. The Slovenian demonstrated his versatility, this time racing to a bronze medal and completing his full set of Winter Universiade medals. Three Universiades – three medals.


“From all the big events, I liked Universiades the most because it’s not so tightened, not so much pressure from everybody, people and journalists,” Šporn says. “You can really focus on skiing, your results and making friends with other students in sport.”


Persevering through injuries at times, Šporn went on to a 13–year career with the Slovenian Ski Team, while representing his country at two Olympic Winter Games – Torino 2006 & Vancouver 2010. With slalom in the rear view mirror, he focused on chasing top speeds in downhill racing.


Šporn also revisited his studies while sidelined from competition, earning a Bachelor’s Degree from Maribor University in 2012.


“In 2009, after injuries, I had too much time and I went to University of Maribor and there I finished my studies – it was connected with computer science – information and organization,” Šporn said. “In the end, I don’t know if I will ever work in this sector, but it was good to finish the degree.”


Conquering the Hahnenkamm Downhill


Šporn’s crowning World Cup achievement came at the 2010 Hahnenkamm downhill race in Kitzbühel, Austria.


Andrej Sporn podiumOn a postcard-like day in the Austrian Tyrol – with tens of thousands of enthusiastic fans packing the venerable ski racing venue – Šporn hurtled down the feared ‘Streif’ race course, summoning the run of his life. Starting position #7, he clocked the fastest time to that point.


“I felt good from the start, no fear, I was just enjoying it, trying to find speed,” Šporn recalls. “When I came to the finish and saw green, I was so happy.”


Sitting like a King on his throne, in the leader’s position, Sporn’s time would hold up for 13 racers, until Swiss star Dider Cuche came down 0.28 seconds faster, bumping the Slovenian down one spot.


Sporn finished second to arguably the greatest Hahnenkamm downhill champion of all-time – the Swiss skier amassed five victories on the legendary mountain. For Šporn, it was a proud and satisfying career best.

“For me, it was actually easier because I didn’t have fear for that race,” Šporn reveals, about a race course that most consider the world’s toughest. “I knew between 15 and 20 racers had fear and were slower because of that, so I saw this as my advantage.”


By: Brian Pinelli (@brian_pinelli on Twitter)