With the FIFA World Cup in Brazil now just around the corner (unfortunately yet again without Bulgarian participation) and the summer months finally rolling in, it’s a good time to get some sports inspiration from Bulgaria’s surprisingly rich sports history. For a country of its size (and I like to emphasize that often enough), Bulgaria has achieved some remarkable sports achievements.
From the first modern Olympics to world chess domination, kashkaval tourist presents 7 incredible Bulgarian sports achievements.
1. Overlords of chess: Veselin Topalov and Antoaneta Stefanova, 2005-2006
Chess is seen by many as the ultimate mind sport and the title of FIDE World Chess Champion is the most prestigious trophy one can hold in the world of chess. Astonishingly, Bulgarians held both the men’s and women’s world chess titles for about a year, between 2005 and 2006. Bulgarian grandmaster Veselin Topalov won the World Chess Championship a year after fellow chess wizard Antoaneta Stefanova had clinched the women’s title in 2004.
Though both Topalov and Stefanova lost their titles in 2006, they have remained at the top of the game, consistently ranking among the top chess players in the world.
2. Fastest English Channel swim: Petar Stoychev, 2007
Bulgarian swimmer Petar Stoychev is deservedly counted among the legends of long-distance (marathon) swimming. He boasts numerous titles in prestigious extreme long-distance swimming competitions, including the World Cup (of which he’s a seven-time winner) and the Grand Prix.
In 2007, Stoychev became the first person to swim the treacherous waters of the English Channel in less than seven hours. His time of 6 hours and less than 58 minutes set a new record for the fastest English Channel swim. Stoychev’s amazing feat was the record for 5 years, until Australian Trent Grimsey beat his time by about 3 minutes in 2012.