Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, March 20, 2017. Whether Snow Volleyball will become the new winter sports mania in Slovenia after the country not only hosted its first event on the CEV Snow Volleyball European Tour, but also won a historic gold in the competition, remains to be seen. However, when three of the small Alpine nation’s best ski jumpers give their stamp of approval for the innovative winter discipline, this already says a lot about the popularity Snow Volleyball is up for in a country that lives and breathes winter sports.
Three members of the Slovenian ski jumping women’s national team welcomed the invitation that came from Sberbank, the official CEV partner for the Snow Volleyball European Tour, and attended the last competition day at the Kranjska Gora stop. When Maja Vtic, Katja Pozun and Spela Rogelj arrived at the venue, even to the ski jumping ignoramus’s eye the iconic status these athletes enjoy in their home country was immediately evident. They quickly attracted the attention of everybody around the centre court. Many did not want to miss the opportunity for selfies with the stars; they were even invited onto the court and they had to show their own Snow Volleyball skills despite the fact that this was their first encounter with the new sport.
“It is my first time to be at a Snow Volleyball event. It is interesting to see something new, something different, like playing Volleyball on the snow. It looks a little bit harder than Beach Volleyball,” said the most experienced of the three, 29-year-old Maja Vtic, whose best achievements in Ski Jumping World Cup events are 1st place and season’s 3rd overall.
The Slovenian ski jumpers are known to play Volleyball as part of their training sessions. “I think it is the safest sport to play as a warm-up when we train. It warms up the whole body from the legs to the arms. It is extremely good for your reflex, because you have to be fast. And ...we like playing it!” said Katja Pozun. However, the 23-year-old ski jumper, who has climbed to the 2nd place at a World Cup event, found a new parallel between the two sports. “We know (Beach) Volleyball as a summer sport, but now we see it played on the snow. This is so funny, because ski jumping is a winter sport, but we also jump without a problem on the plastic in the summer,” she said.
“Our sport is individual and we like playing Volleyball, because it is a team sport, requires more connections and it is more fun,” added Spela Rogelj, who is only 22 and the youngest of the three, but already quite successful at the Ski Jumping World Cup – with a 1st place and season’s 4th overall.
All three of these top-level athletes have had the pleasure of competing at the Winter Olympic Games and they welcome the idea to see Snow Volleyball as a full-fledged Olympic sport. “Maybe it is a good idea to make it Olympic. It would be interesting and really different, because all the sports at the Winter Olympics happen on some kind of skis or ice-skates, but this is a sport with a ball,” said Pozun, whose first encounter with Snow Volleyball took place on a warm and sunny day. “But what would they do if it gets really, really cold, like -20°C, because I see these volleyballers are minimally dressed,” Katja continued to contemplate.
Just like all the other home fans at the Kranjska Gora venue, Maja, Katja and Spela kept their fingers crossed for the Slovenian teams battling on the snow. “Of course, we are cheering for the Slovenian players. We have seen Tadej Bozenk and Danijel Pokeršnik play on the sand before and now it is fun to watch them on the snow,” they said before leaving Kranjska Gora happy about their country’s first Snow Volleyball gold and about their first exciting encounter with this new winter sport.