Shooting might not be the most obvious sport for a young girl to pick up. But when your father is an Olympic medal-winning marksman, your mother is proficient in the sport and even your younger brother knows how to handle a gun, it is really little wonder that you could be driven to take up shooting at an early age. “I started to shoot when I was eleven, my whole family is in the sport,’ Team Serbia Olympic shooter Ivana Maksimović told Wild Rooster. “As a child, I used to play tennis but shooting was, and still is, my first love.
Speaking at the London 2012 Olympic Village, Ivana said: “I grow up in a family where sport is very important. My mum and dad are both shooters, so I heard a lot from them. They showed me what shooting is about. I fell in love with it and now shooting is my life. My younger brother Marko is a shooter too. My whole family is in the sport. But that isn’t all I do, I also like to dance. Shooting is my first love but dancing is my passion.”
Guns Are In The Family
Coming from a successful sporting family has significant advantages at times like these, said 23-year-old Ivana. “My dad was Olympic champion in Seoul 1988 and he has won many European and World championships. My dad is the best person for me to talk with about the Olympic Games. He has given me a lot of advice about the unique atmosphere and the pressures to expect here.
“From the start my parents agreed that mum would be my coach, because dad has a job and he cannot give me full his time. Also, with my mum I have a little bit better communication. So my mum makes a plan for my training and dad is always here for support or to give some good advice.
“There is no pressure about my parents being all the time with me. From the beginning, they have been behind me and I got used to that. It gives me extra motivation and will power to make them proud and happy like myself.
Of course, support from family is important in sport, especially when that family is so experienced, but there needs to be financial backing, too. To reach their full potential, athletes need adequate training facilities and the chance to compete in international tournaments. For Ivana, the support has been there. “For this Olympic Games the financial support is more better then in the past. Olympic Cometee of Serbia is giving big support, so I am free to say that this time we are fully ready for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Since arriving in London, Belgrade student Ivana, who will compete in Women’s 10m Air Rifle and Women’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions at these Olympic Games, has been impressed by the facilities and venues. She is quick to bring up the atmosphere that is felt by athletes at London 2012. “The Olympic Village is the best example that sport is connecting people,’ she said.
“We are making new friendships, hanging out and supporting each other. Here we don’t know about hate or war. It doesn’t matter what language you speak or what country name you wear on your back. We are young and we just want to have a good time and to enjoy our sport. Here everything is easy. It’s perfect.”
Olympic dreams have to start somewhere, and Ivana has been waiting for this day since she started as a shooter. But it was a life changing moment when when she heard that her place in Team Serbia was secure, she said: “That was the most amazing moment of my life. I will never forget it. I made one of my dreams come true. I was crying and hugging everyone. I couldn’t wait to get home and share that happiness with my family and dear friends.
“Since I won my place in Team Serbia, my life changed completely. I was in newspapers, all the magazines wanted to interview me and take some photos. The good thing is, now more people in Serbia know about shooting and know who I am.”
Now that she has joined other competitors at the Olympic Village, reality is hitting home. “It is a very good feeling to be seen as the hope of your country,’ said Ivana. “I want to show people, especially children, that being in sport is an amazing thing. Maybe somebody will look at my life, take the same route as me, and be successful. Maybe they will go to the Olympics, too. For me, this is the experience of a lifetime.”
Excitement Builds For Team Serbia
With just days to go before the grand opening ceremony, when Team Serbia will join other teams in the Olympic Stadium, Ivana is feeling the excitement building among the athletes. “That will be a moment I will remember for the rest of my life,’ she said. “We are all looking forward to walking out into the stadium. I can’t wait to feel the positive energy, the adrenalin rush and the feeling of happiness and excitement from the athletes and the crowd. That moment will be incredible, for sure.”
“I heard that every Olympic Games is unique and that you cannot really prepare for the special feeling and atmosphere you experience here. London will be my first Games, so I can’t tell for sure how is going to be, but I can say that I will have full concentration and I will give my best.”
Like all athletes who will be competing in the fortnight of sport, Ivana has been focused on being in tip top form for London 2012. “I have been preparing for London since September,’ she said. “I have a good shooting range for air rifle in Belgrade and for small bore I go to Novi Sad, a one hour drive from my home. I have also been practicing with the Slovenian Olympic team and we had a short training camp here in London. Sometimes, a small talk with a psychotherapist helps a lot, too!
“For now, I am very satisfied with how my training has progressed. I am in good form and I hope it will stay like this until the end of the Games.”
Ivana has already done herself proud with a raft of international medal success: bronze at the World Cup in Korea, a bronze team medal from the Munich 2012 World Championships, a silver team medal from the 2012 European Championships in Finland, and a gold European Championships team medal as a junior. “Medals would be good, of course, but my personal aim is just to be satisfied after my matches,’ said Ivana. “To be sure that I gave my best and that I couldn’t do any better. To get into the final will make me very happy and satisfied.”
“We are a small country and many people don’t even know where Serbia is. But we have so many good athletes, so many good teams, and so many medal winners. Being a part of Team Serbia is giving me extra power to get through everything and will drive me to give my best at these Olympic Games.”
Although sport takes up most of Ivana’s life, she is in her third year of tourism management at university in Belgrade. With sport and study, there is not much spare time for Ivana, which is one reason why she remains single. Even so, she is already missing family and friends, she said. “I miss my brother and my dog most, but also I miss drinking coffee with friends and having long walks in Belgrade. I am using Facebook, so that makes it easier. My teammates made my fan page, so I can post information about my training and progress, and even some pictures that I want to share with people who are supporting me.”
This is not Ivana’s first trip to London, having been in the capital for the World Cup in April this year. “I had free time to see London and was able to enjoy a lot of what it has to offer: Tower Bridge, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and Madame Tussauds,’ she said, with excitement for the city. “I like London very much. The nightlife and the amazing shopping are things that everybody should get to do in their life.”
Meeting Novak Djokovic
Being an Olympic competitor has added advantages for sports fan Ivana. “I have already met most of the shooters I wanted to meet as I have followed their careers so closely. Olympic medal-winning shooter Jasna Šekarić is here, too, and it is a pleasure to talk and hang out with her. She has so much experience of the Games. But, I still did not have chance to meet Novak Djoković, so I am really looking forward to seeing him. Just to be part of the same team as Nole is enough for me.
“After my dad, Nole is my idol. He is young but still successful and mentally strong, which is very important for my sport. It is always good to watch his games. His success can give me inspiration and motivation for my own matches. And I am sure that all people in Serbia think like me: he is our hero and he is representing Serbia in the best way to the world. I hope that the rest of us athletes will do the same.”