It may sound like a strange thing to say, but there were times 16-year-old Ziga Lin Hocevar wondered if he would ever emulate the world title-winning feats of his father and his sister.

It wasn’t through a lack of ability. More it was a run of small mistakes that ripped gold medals from his hands when he already had one foot on the top podium.

On Friday the Slovenian teenager buried his demons to finally get his hands on a title – the 2023 junior men’s C1 world crown. His older sister Eva Alina, a K1 junior title holder in 2018, was the first to congratulate him, jumping in the water to embrace her younger brother.

Ziga Lin Hocevar was leaving nothing to chance. He finished more than three seconds clear of the next best paddler. It’s the same title his father, Simon, won in Norway in 1992.

“I worked so hard for this, the pressure was so big because I knew all the sacrifices that have gone into this since 2018 when my sister won, I just wanted to win as well,” Hocevar said.

“After my dad won in 1992, it is incredible. I put everything that I had in my power to win this. It means so much to me. Now I have two more years to defend the title, but I am not going to think about that now.”

Hocevar also has the chance to add another medal to his collection on Saturday, when he contests the K1. But he has already said he only does the K1 to keep his coach happy, so expectations are not running high at this stage.

However, the taste of gold can be addictive, although its questionable if Hocevar has much petrol left in the tank after an energy-sapping Friday.

“I felt so nervous, from the start to the finish. I was so tired after the semi-final, I had two big mistakes that I had to repair,” he said.

“When I came to the last upstream gate, I just said so loud, focus focus, because it was so hard to concentrate.”

Weighing heavily on his mind was his performance at his last two major events – last year’s ICF junior world championships in Ivrea, and this year’s European junior championships in Bratislava.

At both those events the gold medal was there for the taking – until the mistakes came.

“Last year I hit the rock bottom in Ivrea, I was up on the last split time and then I screwed up the last combination, and then last month in Bratislava, it was the same story again,” he said.

“I won the qualification, I won the semi-final, and then in the final was up on the last split, and then again I screwed up everything and I got a 50.

“It was so shitful. But now I think it was perfect, it was so perfect. It’s just so big pressure at the start, mostly from myself. I was the only one who didn’t have a title, and now it’s just incredible.”

In the home gym Simon Hocevar’s 1992 gold medal is on display, as a motivating tool for his children as they embark on careers of their own. It reminds them they need to work hard to achieve their goals.

When Ziga Lin gets home he’ll be putting his gold medal next to his father and his sister’s.

Pics by Damiano Benedetto


Canoe Slalom