If determination, commitment and focus were as important to achieving success as fitness, strength and form, Croat Vanja Grgec would be quids in to win whatever he set his mind on.
This Saturday, the 25-year-old personal trainer from Zagreb will have the perfect chance to show that he has what it takes to be a winner, when he steps out onto the stage to represent Croatia at the Mr World contest.
But Vanja is keen to say that he has not been swayed by the lure of the catwalk. “I am not a model,’ he said. “The only modelling I did was just a favour for a friend and was free of charge. I entered Mr World Croatia because I knew that with my education I could not just win, but that I could actually use it to better my life by combining my good looks with the person that I am. But if a good offer comes by, I am definitely open for modelling too.”
Thankfully for Vanja, the Mr World contest is far from what might be expected of such events. The young men are put through their paces in a series of challenges to show what they are made of, inside and out. “From what I have experienced so far, I wouldn’t even call this a beauty pageant,’ said Vanja. “They test our character, physical and mental skills. They look at us under a microscope and it is basically a contest to find the World’s most desirable man. The most beautiful one will not necessarily win. But the one who is a perfect blend of it all, he just might.
“Being a really competitive person I’ve enjoyed the challenges so far. We’ve had an Extreme Challenge, where they put us through a military assault course. It was literally brutal. Fighting to finish first, and at the same time fighting the extreme cold and conditions. We’ve also had a Sports Challenge in swimming, football, golf and general fitness. In both of those I am I placed really high.”
For Vanja, there is so much more than meets the eye about the people who compete in contest such as Mr World. “I want people to see that we are not just models with no brains,’ he said. “I want to encourage intelligent, smart beautiful people to go to this kind of contest because it can open a lot of doors for you.
“If you have a goal that you want to accomplish by winning such a pageant then you will be extremely successful. If you just want to win for the sake of the victory, with no goals or ideas how to use it, you had better restrain yourself and do something more productive, like working on improving yourself first. Personal development is what it all comes to at the end of the day. Either you are becoming a better and more valuable person, or you are not. Simple as that.”
Croatia Maintains Focus on the Goal
It is clear that Vanja has the right attitude to competing on his own terms. “Competing at Mr World has confirmed how focused I can be when I really want something,’ he said. “I found myself really rising up to the challenge and am getting all-around really good results. The determination and burning desire that I feel for winning this contest is really something special. I have been visualising it for two years now. It has been an amazing experience. To have a chance to be at a contest of this magnitude amongst so many countries is really an unforgettable experience and one I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Being a personal trainer also helped Vanja in his preparation for the event. “As soon as I won Mr Croatia in 2011 I began preparing myself both physically and mentally, even though I wasn’t sure when it was going to be and if I would be the one to go,’ he said. “I went with that old quote ‘When preparation meets opportunity an offspring called luck is born’. So I started preparing almost two years before I actually got a chance to compete. And it all paid off. I was really pleased and a thought flashed into my mind: ‘Hard work and preparation actually does pay off’.”
As one of 48 contestants who has spent two weeks touring Kent and London, Vanja has had plenty of chance to make new friends, as he explained: “I share a room with Mr. Germany, a really nice and positive guy. He makes me laugh so hard. I also get on really good with Bosnia, but I actually I spend more time with contestants that are more from the English talking regions. I went to school in the States for four years, so I am as fluent in English as I am in Croatian. I can’t really point a few out who I get on with best because it is a fair share of them.” Vanja was schooled in finance at DePaul University in Chicago, USA, where he was captain of the varsity tennis team and was awarded as the most outstanding tennis player of 2010.
From all that he says and does, it seems true that it would be hard to sway Vanja from his focus on the goal. “At this point I don’t really think about anything or miss anything about home because I am so focused on my goal that nothing really gets to me. I am just right on track and it takes all of my energy and focus. There is no place for anything else. On the night, I will programme myself to say just the right words and do just the right things at exactly the right time. I was a pro-athlete. I have my secrets.”
Pride in Being a Croat
But, while he is putting in all the effort, Vanja does feel some regret that the Mr World contest has not received more attention in Croatia. “I have to be honest here with you,’ he said. “I do feel pride in being a Croat, and I am definitely happy to be able to give such a positive image of my country through my great results. But honestly, I don’t think my nation is expecting that much of me. Actually, I think that many people don’t have the slightest idea that I am competing here, which is perfectly fine. But they will find out soon enough. It would be nice to have a greater following, but I guess I can’t do anything at this point. Be sure that after my performance here things will change for in this regard.”