Vladimir "Spider" Sabich, a top member of the US Olympic Ski team
Thanks to Adam Eterovich for his terrific synopsis of Croatian Olympians. I wanted to add another Croatian-American to the list, Vladimir "Spider" Sabich, who was a top member of the US Olympic Ski team. He did not win a medal, but placed in 5th in the Giant Slalom competition in the 1968 Olympics. He became a top contender in the pro-tour.
Unfortunately, Spider became more famous as a result of his murder in 1976 which resulted in what has been dubbed the "OJ Trial of the 1970s" when he was "mistakingly" shot by his girlfriend, actress Claudine Longet.
There have been a number of documentaries about the killing which have appeared on US television. The following is from the Biography Channel web page. I note that Sabich is credited as being one of the people for making Aspen into what it is today. While the excerpt from the Biography Channel implies that Sabich is forgotten in Aspen, there is a "Spider Sabich Race Arena" in Aspen named after him.
Once a prosperous silver mining camp, Aspen evolved into a year-round mountain retreat for the rich and famous. It was a place where the powerful could forget the hustle and bustle of their hectic lives. But in 1976, one of the town's most glamorous residents found herself behind a smoking gun. The accidental shooting death of ski champion Vladimir Sabich shocked the community and outraged the nation as many felt his rich girlfriend was using her wealth and connections to get away with murder.
Aspen lies at an altitude of 8,000 feet on Colorado's Roaring Fork River. It is one of the most popular ski centers in the western United States. It is a magnet for celebrities including Jack Nicholson, Kevin Costner, and Goldie Hawn. But these stars are relative newcomers to Aspen. One of the first celebrities to make Aspen her home was French actress Claudine Longet.
Longet moved to Aspen in 1974 to be with her lover, downhill ski champion Vladimir "Spider" Sabich. Due to injuries, Sabich's career was heading south on a downhill slope, and by 1976, he had retired from competition. Tensions soon developed in the relationship. The ex-champion told friends their relationship would either end, or they'd be married within a year. Sabich could not have guessed how tragic the end would be.
On March 21, 1976, Longet finished a hard day of hitting the slopes. Late in the afternoon, Longet returned home. At 6:30, she called police and reported that she had accidentally shot Sabich in the stomach. Sabich was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital. Longet was taken into custody.
Longet was put on trial for murder. In Aspen and around the world, people watched and waited to find out if the famous actress would end up in jail. Her ex-husband, pop star Andy Williams, flew to Aspen and stood by Longet during the trial.
Throughout the high profile trial, the jury listened to testimony for and against Longet. The prosecutor claimed she had purposely murdered her boyfriend during an argument. Longet claimed that Sabich had been instructing her on the proper use of the gun when it accidentally discharged. The decision belonged to the jury, and all of Aspen waited to learn whether or not one of their own would spend the next ski season in prison.
After deliberation, the jury refused to believe Longet's story and found her guilty of reckless endangerment. Although she could have received 2 years in jail, she was ordered to serve only 30 days after convincing the judge the "stigma" of prison would harm her children. In Aspen, at the lodges and local ski boutiques, locals were stunned with the verdict. After returning from a Latin American vacation and then serving her month in jail, Longet married her defense attorney Ron Austin. Vladimir Sabich's legacy is confined to a framed display of his skis in Aspen's Hard Rock Cafe. The Longet/Sabich case did not end the allure of Aspen for those able to afford its charms; in fact, Longet's short sentence only confirmed how different the world of the Aspen elite is from the lives of mere mortals.
CROATIA AT THE OLYMPICS, 1890’s-1980’s
By Adam S. Eterovich
Great honor has come to Croatia in Utah. The Battleship USS Utah was sunk at the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Chief Petty Officer Peter Tomich, Croatian American, gave his life saving his fellow sailors and was awarded America’s highest honor and awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery beyond the call of duty. No next of kin could not be found and this Medal of Honor lays unclaimed; it is on display in Salt Lake City, Utah as he has been adopted by the State of Utah.
Now, a young Croatian girl, Janica Kostelic, was honored with a Medal of Gold at the Olympic Games in Utah.
Croatian Olympic Champions Credited to Italy, Austria and England
Croatians participated in all Olympic Games since the start of the modern games in the 1890’s. Credit was always given those that ruled her. Milan Neralic was awarded a Bronze medal in Fencing for Austria in 1900. He was a Croatian. Croatia was a part of Austria.
Petar Ivanov, Ante, Frano, Simun Katalinic, Viktor Ljubic and Bruno Soric were awarded Bronze medals in Rowing for Italy in 1924. They were from Zadar; Zadar was then part of Italy.
Paolo Radmilovich from Dubrovnik was awarded a Gold medal in swimming for England in 1908, and a Gold medal for waterpolo in 1908, 1912, 1924 and 1928.
Many Croatians won Olympic medals while controlled by Yugoslavia. Croatia and Croatians should not allow Austria, Italy or Yugoslavia to any longer take credit for something that is not theirs. These are spoils of war and national heritage theft.
From the beginning of the Olympic Games to the 1980’s, Croatia won approximately 170 Olympic medals including 51 Gold medals. Croatian Olympic Gold winners included:
Name Year Sport
COSIC, KRESIMIR 1980 BASKETBALL
JERKOV, ZELJKO 1980 BASKETBALL
KNEGO, ANDRO 1980 BASKETBALL
KRSTULOVIC, DUJE 1980 BASKETBALL
NAKIC, MIHOVIL 1980 BASKETBALL
SKROCE, BRANKO 1980 BASKETBALL
PARLOV, MATE 1972 BOXING
BASIC, MIRKO 1984 HANDBALL
HORVAT, HRVOJE 1972 HANDBALL
JURINA, PAVAO 1984 HANDBALL
MILJAK, ZDRAVKO 1972 HANDBALL
OGNJENOVIC, MIRJAN 1984 HANDBALL
PRIBANIC, MIROSLAV 1972 HANDBALL
PTUJEC, JASNA 1984 HANDBALL
VIDOVIC, ALBIN 1972 HANDBALL
VISNJIC, BISERKA 1984 HANDBALL
ZORKO, ZDENKO 1972 HANDBALL
ZOVKO, ZDRAVKO 1984 HANDBALL
LJUBEK, MATIJA 1976 KAYAK
LJUBEK, MATIJA 1984 KAYAK
BONACIC, DUJE 1952 ROWING
SEGOVIC, PETAR 1952 ROWING
TROJANOVIC, MATE 1952 ROWING
VALENTA, VELIMIR 1952 ROWING
ANKOVICH, ANTE 1960 SOCCER
BEGO, ZVONKO 1960 SOCCER
MATUS, ZELJKO 1960 SOCCER
PERUSIC, ZALJKO 1960 SOCCER
ZANETIC, ANTE 1960 SOCCER
BJEDOV, DURDICA 1968 SWIMMING
BEBIC, MILIVOJ 1984 WATERPOLO
BEZMALINOVIC, MISLA 1988 WATERPOLO
BONACICH, OZREN 1964 WATERPOLO
BUKIC, PERICA 1984 WATERPOLO
DUHO, VESELIN 1988 WATERPOLO
HEBEL, ZDRAVKO 1968 WATERPOLO
LOPATNY, RONALD 1968 WATERPOLO
LUSIC, DENI 1984 WATERPOLO
LUSIC, DENI 1988 WATERPOLO
PASKVALIN, TOMISLAV 1984 WATERPOLO
PASKVALIN, TOMISLAV 1988 WATERPOLO
POLJAK, MIROSLAV 1968 WATERPOLO
POSINKOVIC, RENCO 1988 WATERPOLO
ROJE, ZORAN 1984 WATERPOLO
SIMENC, DUBRAVKO 1988 WATERPOLO
STIPANIC, KARLO 1968 WATERPOLO
SUKNO, GORAN 1984 WATERPOLO
TRUMBIC, IVO 1968 WATERPOLO
VULETIC, BOZO 1984 WATERPOLO
LISJAK, VLADO 1984 WRESTLING
American Croatian Olympic Contributions
Former National Amateur Athletic Union and World's Diving Champion, Helen Crlenkovich is about to make a perfect entry into the water after a dive from the highboard. Known popularly as "Clenkie", Crlenkovich was National Outdoor Springboard Champion in 1939, 1941, and 1945; National Platform Champion in 1941 and 1945, and the National Indoor Three Meter titleholder from 1939 to 1942. She won the Olympic Gold Medal in Diving in 1932. The former University of California student and native of San Francisco, California died of cancer in 1955 only one week after learning that she had been named to the Helms Foundation Diving Hall of Fame. Helen Crlenkovich is a Croatian American.
Sacramento’s George Stanich was John Wooden’s first All-American at University of California at Los Angeles. Stanich played guard for the Bruins and earned his honors in 1950. An all-around athlete, he captured a Bronze Medal in the high jump at the 14th Olympic Games in London and later pitched for Oakland of the Pacific Coast Baseball League. Stanich coached basketball at El Camino College in Los Angeles for 15 years and in 1971 coached Yugoplastika of Split to the national basketball championship. He was Professor of Physical Education at El Camino College in Los Angeles. George Stanich is a Croatian American.
The "Miracle on Ice" still ranks among the nation's greatest sporting moments and, in many ways, Mark Pavelich was symbolic of the American team. The conversation quickly moves to that night in Lake Placid, N.Y., against the Soviet Union, more than 20 years ago, when he collected the puck along the boards and slid it in front of the net. That puck ended up on the stick of teammate Mike Eruzione, who scored to give the U.S. squad an upset over the USSR on the way to a Gold Medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics. Pavelich was small for the game, never growing taller than 5 feet 8, but all those childhood days on outdoor rinks molded him into a clever skater and stickhandler. "A throwback player who could control the puck like he had it on a string," says Baker, who grew up nearby in Grand Rapids. He was born in nearby Eveleth, in rugged country known as the Iron Range, where boys learn to hunt and fish from an early age. The town claims to have the world's largest hockey stick at 107 feet long, so they also learn to play. In the late 1970s, those skills made Pavelich one of the greatest players in the history of the University of Minnesota Duluth. They subsequently earned him a spot on the Olympic team. He earned respect with his work ethic and a knack for passing the puck. Former goaltender Jim Craig recalls him as "an honest man, just a wonderful guy to be around." Little was expected of the Americans that winter, their coach reportedly telling them before the Olympics it would take some luck to win a bronze. But after an opening tie against Sweden, they rolled to four consecutive victories against the likes of Norway and Romania to reach the medal round against the powerhouse Soviets. Pavelich played an essential, supporting role that night, assisting on two of the four goals. Two days later, the U.S. defeated Finland to win the gold medal, and Pavelich wound up with six assists in the seven Lake Placid games. The players became overnight heroes, appearing on television, visiting the White House, attending promotional events across the nation.
Robert Minerich was asked by the United States Olympic Committee, to become Director of Olympic Village and Public Facilities for the VIII Winter Olympics to be held at Squaw Valley, California in 1960. Bob, Minerich was in charge of designing and directing the housing and feeding arrangements for the athletes, National and International Olympic Committee Members and heads of the many corporations involved in the Olympics. After the Olympics, as a management consultant, he helped plan, organize and staff a new ski facility, Alpine Meadows in the Squaw Valley, California area. In 1979-80, when the United States Olympic Committee again called upon his expertise. He took a three month leave of absence to become the liaison of the USA Olympic Committee and International Olympic Committee to help solve the problems confronting the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. Bob Minerich received a football scholarship from Northwestern University of Evanston, Illinois. Bob Minerich is a Croatian American.
Sandra Bezic, a 1972 Olympian and former Canadian pairs champion, joined NBC Sports in 1990 as an analyst for its figure skating coverage. Sandra skated competitively with her brother, Val, from 1967 through the mid-1970s. She and her brother won the Canadian pairs novice title in 1967 and the Canadian senior competition four straight times from 1970-1973. Sandra has served as the analyst on numerous NBC Sports' figure skating events, including four World Figure Skating Championships 1991-1993 and 1995 and the World Professional Figure Skating Championships from 1990-1995. She has designed programs for many top skaters, including Brian Boitano, Katarina Witt, Kristi Yamaguchi and Kurt Browning. Sandra Bezic has choreographed and/or produced more than 25 television specials in Canada and the United States, including the Emmy Award-wining "Carmen on Ice." She won Gemini awards for producing Browning's "You Must Remember This" and Brian Orser's "Night Moves." Bezic also produced the North American Tour of "Stars on Ice" and is the author of "Passion to Skate:
An Intimate View of Figure Skating." Sandra and her brother Val are Canadian Croatians.
Goran Ivanisevic was born on September 13, 1971 in Split, Croatia. He played tennis for the Croatian National Davis Cup teams; he was awarded an Olympic Bronze Medal in 1992, individually and in pair with G. Prpic. He is Wimbledon Champion in 2001 and was Wimbledon finalist 1992); Wimbledon semi-finalist (1990); best placing on ATP list: fourth place, 1992. He was awarded Best Sportsman of Croatia in 1992.
Drazen Petrovic led the Croatian team to the Olympic Final against the American Dream Team and won the Silver Medal in Barcelona. In 1988 Drazen joined “Real”, a club from Madrid and after three years of successful playing he accomplished the dream of the dreams of all basketball players, when he scored his first goal for the colors of the best World League-the American NBA. At first he played for Portland Trail Blazers and from 1991 to his death he was wearing the colors of New Jersey Nets. During the nine years of his brilliant carrier he was the number one player on all basketball levels, in Spain, even in the USA where he was scorer number one of the NETS and the scorer number eleven of the NBA League.
Toni Kukoc is a professional basketball player. Born September 18, 1969 in Split, Dalmatia, Croatia. married with one child. Olympic Silver Medal 1988, Olympic Silver Medal 1992. Played professional basketball in Chicago for the Chicago Bulls.