Full circle for Slovenia’s legendary Cop
The history of rowing around Bled, Slovenia goes back over 100 years and at the most recent end of its history a rower named Iztok Cop has made a huge name for himself. Cop is a household name in Slovenia. He is Slovenia’s most successful Olympic athlete ever and he will be competing on his home course, on Lake Bled in the men’s double sculls.
These World Rowing Championships on Cop’s home waters come 22 year after Cop first competed on the international scene. These World Rowing Championships are also 22 years after Bled last hosted the event and they are likely to be Cop’s last time competing at a World Championship event.
In 1989 Bled hosted the World Rowing Championships. At that time Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia and independence was still two years away. Cop was just 17 years old and he had made the national rowing team for the first time competing in Hungary at the junior championships. Cop finished first in the men’s pair and thus starting his long and illustrious rowing career that continued to today.
The young Cop remembers coming to the 1989 World Rowing Championships after being permitted to take five days off school to watch.
It was not long until Cop made the Yugoslavian senior team and went to the 1990 World Rowing Championships as part of the men’s four. The following year Cop won his first medal at the senior level. Now in the men’s pair with his gold medal junior partner, Denis Zvegelj, the duo finished second at the World Rowing Championships in Austria. On the medals podium, despite being part of the Yugoslav team, Zvegelj and Cop chose to wear the colours of Slovenia. In December of that year Slovenia declared independence.
In 1992 Cop competed for Slovenia at the Olympic Games. With Zvegelj the duo won bronze in the pair – independent Slovenia’s first Olympic medal. Cop then went on to compete in four more Olympic Games taking gold in 2000 in the double with Luka Spik and also silver in the same event in 2004.
At these World Rowing Championships, Cop has reunited with Spik to race in the double. Cop talked about his feelings coming into this event in his website blog. It has made him reflect on his long career, the ups and downs and he admits it has not always been fun to do. “This path has been full of thorns but also full of blossoms.”
“This World Championships will be the last so it is more emotional for me. I hope I can change it to competitive emotions.”
Cop paid tribute to his splendid partners that he has been fortunate to row with and also the ‘legends’ that he has had the fortune to compete against. “I am grateful for this opportunity.”
Today Cop raced with Spik in the heats of the men’s double. Much to the crowd’s delight the duo won their heat and also recorded the fastest qualifying time, giving them a direct path to the semifinals.
For all the photos, click here