Slovenian gymnasts take country's first ever gold medals on world stage

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Slovenia has something to celebrate at the moment, after the country took two gold medals at the 38th World Gymnastics Championships in Melbourne, Australia. This success was a historic first for the country, which had never taken gymnastics gold since its independence. Michael Manske of Radio Slovenia International has more.

For a country whose total population is smaller than many European capitals, Slovenia is often at a disadvantage when competing internationally. Gymnastics, however, is one field that has seen a number of Slovenian successes, especially by the duo Mitja Petkovsek and Aljaz Pegan, affectionately known as P&P.

Top honours, though, have eluded the pair and the country since 1970, when the Slovenian gymnast Miro Cerar brought home gold for what was then Yugoslavia.

Slovenia's Mitja Petkovsek came painfully close in 2002, when he secured a silver medal in men's parallel bars. Three years later, he was able to upgrade to gold. In Melbourne, Petkovsek went first on the parallel bars, and then had to wait through an agonizing seven routines by his competitors before learning that the gold was his.

With a score of 9.700, he finished just a fraction ahead of the 2003 world champion, China's Li Xiao-Peng. Petkovsek later told reporters that, despite the victory, he felt slighted.

"Unfortunately, the judges weren't on my side. In general, I would normally get 9.75 or a bit more for this routine."

Later the same day, his compatriot, Aljaz Pegan, added more gold to Slovenia's treasure chest.

Competing of the high bars, Pegan was confident he could score a perfect ten:

"When I first got up on the bars I was sure I could get a perfect score, even with a few little errors. But I knew the closing had to be perfect."

Unfortunately, he had to settle for a 9.662. Not perfect—but enough to finish ahead of France and Ukraine and thus, good enough for gold. When Pegan returned to Slovenia, dozens of supporters were there to celebrate his historic victory - including the man who won gold more than 30 years ago, Miro Cerar. Pegan described the moment as "unforgettable".

Although the careers of P&P are far from over, they will always have a spot in gymnastics history, as the first two men to win gold for Slovenia in global competition.