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Basketballers, Swimmers Dominate BTA’s 2022 Top 10 Balkan Athlete of the Year Poll

Basketball players Aleksandar Vezenkov, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and swimmers David Popovici and Lana Pudar, occupied five of the ten places in the 49th edition of BTA’s 2022 Balkan Athlete of the Year poll. Participating in this year’s edition of the poll were the national news agencies BTA (Bulgaria), ANA-MPA (Greece), AGERPRES (Romania), Anadolu Agency (Turkiye), TANJUG (Serbia), MINA (Montenegro), MIA (Republic of North Macedonia), HINA (Croatia), FENA (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and ATA (Albania).
Vezenkov had the most rebounds captured with the Bulgarian national team at the European Championships. He established himself as a key player in his club, the Greek Olympiacos, which played in the EuroLeague Final Four. His performance earned him a spot in the All-Euroleague First Team.
Serbian centre Jokic was named the NBA’s MVP for the 2021/2022 season, becoming only the second European to receive the award in back-to-back years after Giannis Antetokounmpo (in 2019 and 2020). Jokic played in the All-Star Game and was selected to the All-NBA First Team.
Greek power forward Antetokounmpo also played in the All-Star Game and was selected to the All-NBA First Team. He won the EuroBasket Top Scorer award.
Romanian swimming sensation David Popovici dominated the men’s 100 and 200m freestyle even before he turned 18 mid-September. He won world titles in both disciplines in Budapest making him the first swimmer to do so at a single championship since Jim Montgomery in 1973. Popovici took gold in the 100 and 200m freestyle and at the European Championships and set a world record in the 100m.
At just 16 years old, Lana Pudar won gold medal in the women’s 200 m butterfly and a bronze medal in the women’s 100 m butterfly at the 2022 European Aquatics Championships. She is the Bosnian national record holder in all six butterfly events.
The other five athletes in BTA’s list compete in football, track and field, tennis, wrestling, and volleyball.
Croat footballer Luka Modric’s bronze at the World Cup and his fifth Champions League title earned him a spot in this year’s Balkan Athlete of the Year poll.
Serbian Novak Djokovic was again voted in the poll after winning his 21st Grand Slam title in Wimbledon, as well as winning the ATP Finals at the end of the season.
The top 10 was completed by Greek long jumper Miltiadis Tentoglou, Turkish wrestler Taha Akgul, and Serbian volleyball player Tijana Boskovic.
A total of 38 athletes received votes in this year’s poll. The Bulgarian athletes included European champion and world silver medallist Kiril Milov, European boxing champion Sevda Asenova, and weightlifter Karlos Nasar, who holds the world record in the clean and jerk for the 81 kg weight class.
Following are the winners of BTA’s Balkan Athlete of the Year poll in alphabetical order: Aleksandar Vezenkov (Bulgaria, basketball)
David Popovici (Romania, swimming)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece, basketball)
Lana Pudar (Bosnia and Herzegovina, swimming)
Luka Modric (Croatia, football)
Miltiadis Tentoglou (Greece, track and field)
Nikola Jokic (Serbia, basketball)
Novak Djokovic (Serbia, tennis)
Taha Akgul (Turkiye, wrestling)
Tijana Boskovic (Serbia, volleyball)