As the clock counts down to less than one hundred days until the spectacular opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, athletes worldwide will be refocusing their sights for the final push. Among tens of thousands of Olympic hopefuls three young Serbian women will be hoping that their own Olympic dreams will be played out on the waters of Eton. If all goes well, they might even brush shoulders with some of their heroes, too.
Belgrade-based sisters Nikolina (21) and Olivera Moldovan (22) and their teammate Antonija Nadj (25) were among the first to guarantee their places on the Serbian Olympic Team for London 2012, when they qualified at the championships in Hungary, last August. They will compete in the K4 500m challenge in London, with entry into the K1 and K2 500m contests still to be determined.
Social conditions and financial opportunities contribute to a nation’s success in sports, according to Olympic medalist Milorad Čavić, who has been considering Serbia’s knack for producing top sporting talent. “No one really knows why there is so much talent here but I think a great deal of it has to do with the economic situation,’ the American Serb swimming champion told W!LDRooSTeR.
“Physiologically we are strong, we are tall, but the other side is the mental thing. It is the average man’s desire to break out of their current situation. It is their gateway to a better life. For that reason, if you see some of the places that our best athletes have trained, I think it has given them something that someone from the West would not have had need to bring out.
Tough love drove Serbia’s swimming champ Milorad Čavić to achieve his best, he said. But that same force for good drove a wedge between Čavić and his father, and could keep them apart as Čavić prepares for London 2012. The American-born Serb has told how his father refused to speak to him for three months after Čavic failed to bring home a medal, and that rift could keep him away from the Olympics.
“I don’t mean to insult or spit on my father but he was really, really hard on me,’ said Čavić. “In 2004 I had some trouble with my swimming suit during the semi final of the 100m butterfly. I was ready to win a medal. I thought the bronze was completely realistic. I was leading the first 50m by a long shot. I turned and coming home from the 50m to 60m mark, which is my strongest part of the race, I went from first to last.
Poor facilities, below par coaching methods and a lack of incentive to achieve the highest standards could be crippling Serbian athletics. That is the hard-talking wake-up call from Olympic medalist Milorad Čavić, shared with W!LDRooSTeR. Recalling his own success within the US training system, Čavić pointed out areas that need to be addressed if opportunities for young Serbian athletes are to improve.
In terms of facilities, there is some light on the horizon. “Thankfully, we received two new 50m pools this year,’ said Čavić. “One is where I train and the other is an outdoor pool with a balloon over it. In that regard, in Belgrade the conditions are much better now. It’s not ideal but it’s getting better. I have a good relationship with the President [Tadić]. He asked me how I liked the new training facilities. I said it was fantastic and he said, ‘I hope so, we dumped a lot of money into it’.