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13 November 2020 | in Winter FISU World University Games

Spotlight: Remembering the Zakopane 2001 Winter Universiade

The Winter Universiade once again headed to the High Tatras, this time back to the mountain resort town of Zakopane, Poland’s winter capital for the event’s 20th edition


zakopane2001 startZakopane, Poland hosted the Winter Universiade in 2001 just eight years after hosting the 1993 edition.


The community in the heart of the Tatra Mountains welcomed 1,543 participants from 41 countries from 7-17 February. Athletes competed in nine sports and 52 events overall, with perennial leaders Russia once again winning the lion’s share of the medals (31), 17 more than runners-up South Korea and Poland.


Overall the conditions for the snow events were quite good in Zakopane, but one night the cross-country course was badly damaged, requiring emergency overnight repairs.


Roger Roth, Chair of the FISU Technical Committee, recalls how the organisers scrambled to get the course back in shape again in time for the next day’s competition. “They worked all night, which brought a lot of cohesion to the team.


"They did the best they could, although the slope was still not in ideal condition, so I told all the coaches to pass along a message to the athletes: ‘Please do not complain about the quality of the slope but respect the work that went into it.’ This helped create an ambience of friendship, solidarity and comprehension.”

Zakoopane2001 snowinshortsupplyWhen winter suddenly turns warm sometimes all it takes is several snow shovels and plenty of back-breaking sweat to turn a muddy farm field back into a biathlon and cross-country ski course

The Russians certainly appeared to comprehend the best, winning all eight gold medals in the cross-country competition.


A first-time winner was crowned in ice hockey when Slovakia beat Canada in the final. It was a fitting result for the Slovaks, who took bronze at the Zakopane



1993 Winter Universiade and silver at the 1999 Poprad-Tatry Games. Defending champions Ukraine finished third.

zakopane2001 hockey

Two of the biggest winners of this Universiade were Bulgaria’s Evgenia Radanova and South Korea’s Choi Min-kyung. The women’s short-track speed skaters battled each other tooth and nail all week and left Poland with seven medals between them.


Choi won two golds and one silver, a precursor of what was to come the following year when she went on to become World and Olympic Champion. Radanova, meanwhile, brought her Universiade medal haul to three golds and four silvers in three appearances at the Games.



Radanova was the first Bulgarian to win more than one medal at the Winter Olympics and was also the country’s first to compete at both a Winter and Summer Olympic Games in speed skating and cycling, respectively.


zakopane2001 ceremoniesAnd the band played on through the night. While the 2001 Winter Universiade edition was the last hosted in Poland, the High Tatras has continued to be a familiar international student-athlete competition site.