The answer to a question how a small country like Croatia can excel so well at sports is simple: Croatians are naturally talented! They work hard too – the drive and potential to succeed seem to be in the genes.
Here’s some examples of how Croatians have excelled in sports on the international scene so far this summer – and it’s only half way through!
At the threshold of summer, June 15, young Donna Vekic beat Magdalena Rybarikova in semi-finals at WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) Aegon Classic in Birmingham UK – ushering another great summer for Croats in sporting glory.
Marin Cilic, the runner-up to Andy Murray at Queens June 19 moved into the second round of the 2013 Wimbledon Tennis Championship as he defeated 2006 Australian Open finalist and 2006 Wimbledon semifinalist Marcos Baghdatis in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 On 24 June 2013. Pulled out of competition due to injury, June 26.
July 1, Croatia won a total of 24 medals, including 11 gold, at the Mediterranean Games in Turkey, making it Croatia’s most successful Mediterranean Games in its history. Croatia finished 9th on the medal tally out of 24 nations.
Winning the junior Australian Open, her first senior tour title in Montpellier, making the semi-finals at the junior French Open and making the semi-finals of junior Wimbledon, 2013 has been one hell of a year for promising Croatian junior tennis player Ana Konjuh. The 15-year-old Dubrovnik-born teen had beaten Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina in straight sets 6:3, 6:2 on July 4 to advance to the semi-finals at the All England club. Croatia’s Wimbledon legend Goran Ivanisevic believes that Konjuh will be a future world top 10 player.
Croatian high jump champion Blanka Vlasic came third at a Diamond League meeting in Paris on Saturday 6 July by clearing 198 cm. This was Vlasic’s tenth appearance in Paris, where she has won five times. She scored the best results in 2007 and 2010 by clearing 202 cm. Paris was her fourth Diamond League meeting this season. She was first in New York, clearing 194 cm, third in Rome (195 cm) and fifth in Oslo (190 cm). Her season best this year was in Buhl, where she cleared 200 cm.
The Croatian beach handball team is the champion of Europe again. Croatia claimed their 3rd European Beach Handball title in Denmark over the weekend of July 15 by beating Russia in the final 2:0 (24:18, 21:16). The victory means that Croatia has now won the most beach handball trophies out of any other country in Europe. Up until the Denmark tournament Croatia, Spain and Russia all had claimed 2 European Championships.
Croatian tennis player Ivo Karlovic has capped off a remarkable recovery from a near career ending illness just weeks before July 22 to claim his first ATP tournament in five years on Sunday. The giant from Salata in Zagreb only returned to the professional circuit this July after a three-month absence, including one month in a Miami hospital bed with viral meningitis. Karlovic had a straight-set win over local player Alejandro Falla in the Claro Open Colombia final on Sunday 6-3, 7-6 in an hour and 18 minutes. Karlovic did not lose his serve the whole tournament.
Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic has July 23 been named captain of Spanish side Sevilla FC for the 2013-14 La Liga season. The 25-year-old was given the honour whilst the club was at a pre-season tournament in Columbia. Fazio, Navarro and Reyes have been named as Rakitic’s vice-captains. Rakitic joins Croatian teammates Darijo Srna and Stipe Pletikosa as national team players who wear the captain’s armband for their clubs.
Croatia has another European Champion, this time in the sport of Thai Kickboxing. Helena Jurisic, from the Dalmatian city of Split, has won July 31 gold at the European Thai Kickboxing Champs in Portugal in the U-71kg category after beating the strong Russian Velichkina Elena in the final. The victory is great preparation for Helena who will compete in the World K-1 Championships in Brazil in October. The European Thai Kickboxing Championships in Portugal was a successful one for Croatia with Marija Bodac winning bronze in the U-60kg, Mihovil Cuzic bronze in the U-81kg men’s and Hela Cuzic winning the junior U-67kg category and Anto Siric silver in the U-75kg category.
New Chelsea FC coach Jose Mourihno got his Croatian man. No, the suave Portuguese tactician has not signed the legendary Luka Modric, but the 18-year-old striker Stipe Perica. Perica, who plays for FC Zadar in the Croatian 1st division, will move to Stamford Bridge for a undisclosed sum, the club announced on Thursday Aug 1. Perica, who played for Croatia at the U20 World Cup recently, is a 6’3 tall, strong, athlete and has been compared to legendary Croatian striker Alen Boksic.
Croatian karate talent Jelena Kovacevic on Saturday August 3 won a silver medal at the World Games held in Cali, Columbia.
The Croatian men’s Water Polo team has claimed its 4th bronze medal at a World Championship after finishing 3rd at the 2013 World Water Polo Championships held in Barcelona, August 3.
August 5, hundreds turned up on Dubrovnik’s main strip – Stradun – when it transformed into a miniature tennis court on the weekend for ‘Kids Day’ to end off the Dubrovnik International Tennis Camp, which was run by Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic.
Dinamo Zagreb Champions of the World After Beating AC Milan at Old Trafford in Manchester UK, August 10.
August 11, Croatia’s London 2012 Olympic Games Discus champion Sandra Perkovic won a gold medal in women’s discus throw at the World Championship in Moscow. Her winning distance was 67.99 metres. By winning the World Championship, Perkovic won everything one can win in her discipline. Apart from the Olympics, she won the European Championship twice – Barcelona 2010 and Helsinki 2012. Perkovic also took gold in the Mediterranean Games in Mersin and she already secured the second overall victory in the Diamond League.
Tottenham have identified the ‘next Luka Modric’ and are reported to be closing in on a deal for Dinamo Zagreb star Alen Halilovic, 13 August 2013
According to fresh news reports, Manchester United are now keeping tabs on the ever-changing situation and could launch a surprise bid and hijack their Premier League rivals efforts; rumours have it that Manchester United has been in contact with Real Madrid with view to securing the Croatian football super talent Luka Modric.
Sports require sponsors, powerful patrons, or greater state support, especially at the local level, and that currently places Croatia in an unfavourable position because Croatia is a relatively poor country in required infrastructure and supporting opportunities from both business and government. This means that many sporting talents have scattered across Europe and the western world in pursuit of success – they all, though, consider themselves Croatian and wear the Croatian flag at competitions. The pride in being Croatian goes with them wherever they go – how good is that! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)