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30 October 2020 | in Winter FISU World University Games

Spotlight: Remembering the Poprad-Tatry 1999 Winter Universiade

 

Take a trip down memory lane back to Poprad-Tatry in the High Tatras Mountains of Slovakia for the XIX Winter Universiade

 

WU 99   006The final Winter Universiade of the 20th Century took place in Poprad-Tatry in the north of Slovakia, and it was expertly organised despite a flu bug that initially threatened to derail the event.

 

The virus affected the president of the local organising committee, Lubomir Fogas, as well as a raft of athletes, including local cross-country ace Yvan Batory, members of the Canadian ice hockey team, and Italian snowboarder Federico Parini. Parini was laid low in his room at the Athletes’ Village but recovered in time to not only compete but eventually be crowned champion in the men’s giant slalom.

 

Fears of an epidemic were quickly put to rest by the local health authorities and the show went on without major incident.

 

Poprad-Tatry is remembered for the rise of some incredible young talent, led by a pair of 20-year-olds – Russian figure skater Irina Slutskaya and Japanese short-track champion Takafumi Nishitani.WU 99   004

 

Slutskaya finished second in the woman’s individual event, showing flashes of brilliance that would lead her to becoming a two-time World Champion and medallist at both the Salt Lake City 2002 and Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games. The Russian team was so dominant in figure skating at Poprad-Tatry that they won all the medals in the woman’s individual event, two of three in ice dancing and pairs, and silver in the men’s individual.

 

Russia ran away with the medals in general at this Universiade, winning 30 in total, with the home team putting in a surprising showing as well, with 18 medals, including 4 gold.

 

Nagano Olympic Winter Games champion Nishitani, meanwhile, would win Universiade gold in the 5000 m relay in Poprad-Tatry. He would go on to win another gold at the 2001 Universiade in Zakopane.WU 99   002

 

The Poprad-Tatry region is steeped in sporting tradition, and many world-famous athletes can trace their roots back to the area, including grand-slam winning tennis player Daniela Hantuchová and a number of elite ice hockey players, none better than Peter Bondra, the NHL great who became the 37th player in league history to score over 500 goals.

 

The home crowd was therefore delighted by the performance of their hockey team at the Universiade. Team Slovakia booked a spot in the final against upstarts Ukraine, a game that would act as a prelude to the Closing Ceremony.

 

The Slovaks took the lead in all three periods before being pegged back by the Ukrainians each time. The game was eventually decided on penalties, with the Ukrainians being crowned champion for the first time. Canada beat Russia in the bronze-medal match.