As London organises the Olympic Games in 2012, Serbia is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the country’s participation in the Olympics. Between 1920 and 2004, Serbian athletes participated in the games under the flags of Yugoslavia and Serbia-Montenegro, finally returning to its original symbols in 2008.
In total, Yugoslav Olympic participants won 28 gold medals. In the individual disciplines, we can now easily distinguish the Yugoslav Olympic champions coming from Serbia: shooters Jasna Šekarić (1988), Goran Maksimović (1988) and Aleksandra Ivošev (1996); Greco-roman wrestlers Branislav Simić (1964) and Momir Petković (1976); canoeist Mirko Nišović (1984); and boxer Slobodan Kačar (1980). Yugoslavia was also a major power in team sports, despite the size of its population. In 2000, the gold medal winning men’s volleyball team was predominantly constituted of players from Serbia. But previous ‘golden’ national teams consisted of athletes not only from Serbia, but also from other ex-Yugoslavian republics. These included: three Olympic wins in men’s water polo (1968, 1984, 1988), two Olympic wins in men’s handball (1972, 1984), as well as one Olympic win in men’s basketball (1980), men’s football (1960) and women’s handball (1984).
Recent notable performances mean that Serbia’s hopes for winning medals at London 2012 are primarily focused on the men’s water polo team and tennis player Novak Djoković, who is ranked number one in the world after triumphing at three out of the last four grand slams. Despite her recently unpredictable form, top doubles tennis player Jelena Janković may reach the Olympic podium with her partner Nenad Zimonjić.
As always, expectations are high for shooting, the sport in which Serbia’s athletes have taken ten Olympic medals thus far. Encouragingly, Serbian Zorana Arunović is now carrying the world champion’s title.
Although they have yet to qualify for the Olympics, I must highlight that Serbia’s volleyball teams (both men and women) became European champions in 2011, making us optimistic for their Olympic performance. Also still facing the Olympic qualifiers, the men’s handball team was the 2012 runner-up at the European Championship. In swimming, Milorad Čavić took the silver medal in the epic race against the invincible Michael Phelps in Beijing in 2008 and is now preparing himself for revenge, while we also have high hopes for 2009 world swimming champion Nadja Higl. In rowing, our men’s coxless four and coxless pair have great potential, not just for the finals, but also perhaps for taking a medal.
Having recently gained the status of an EU candidate country, I am looking forward to seeing outstanding performances from Serbia’s athletes at London 2012, in a competition based not only on the motto citius, altius, fortius but, above all, on the principle of fair play. No doubt, Diplomat’s readers will devote their summer to watching the best athletes in the world perform, and that among them, they will find some amazing Serbs to support.