ZAGREB: Croatia’s high jump world champion Blanka Vlasic and skier Ivica Kostelic were named the country’s top athletes of the year for 2009 by a national newspaper Sunday.
Vlasic retained her world crown at the world athletics championships in Berlin in August while Kostelic finished a career-best fourth overall in the 2009 World Cup standings.
“All I wish for next year is good health,” said the 26-year-old Vlasic after receiving the award by the Sportske Novosti daily.
Despite a career blighted by injury Kostelic finished an impressive fourth overall in the men’s World Cup standings last season.
The 30-year-old earlier this month underwent an operation on his right knee after sustaining injury during the World Cup super-combined event in Val d’Isere, France.
Although he hopes to compete at the Sljeme slalom in Croatia on January 6, he said Sunday: “I have to be ready for the Olympic Games in Vancouver.”
He added: “My knee has recovered enough for me to ski gently and I think it will get better day by day. We’ll see if it’s good enough for me to compete at Sljeme.”
Kostelic, whose hugely successful sister Janica is now retired, won a slalom world title in 2003 and will be one of the medal contenders for the supercombined during the Vancouver Games being held February 12-28.
More than 400 journalists from 59 media across the country took part in the vote. — AFP