“I risked my career by making the decision to compete at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow as I was going through serious health problems leading up to the championships. I risked it all and I won my first senior medal at a world event.”
-Ivana Spanovic as quoted by Wizz magazine in June 2015
Ivana Spanovic is bracing herself for one of the biggest fights of her life. In a few days, she will take centre stage, as the world will watch the women’s long jump. This will be Spanovic’s third Olympics as a long jump athlete after her participation in 2008 and 2012.
Who hasn’t heard of Novak Djokovic? Then let loose the social constructions for a bit and know Djokovic’s female equivalent. Ivana Spanovic is now the best-known sportswoman in Serbia after the Olympic Committee of Serbia named her Sportswoman of the Year in 2013 and 2015.
Not many outside of Serbia have heard of her, but it’s not too late. Her grand appearance is yet to come as she is set for Rio. The Serbian is gradually taking the world by storm. and is arousing awe amongst all not just through her athletics but also her stunning looks. Generally, not a lot can be predicted about the Olympics or its television coverage, but some things are just plain old obvious- Spanovic will have her fair share of the limelight.
You know how an athlete comes along and claims that they knew from the very beginning, as a toddler, which sport they were taking up? That was the case with Sania Mirza as a young child, who preferred Tennis racquets to dolls. Well, Ivana isn’t one of them. She initially did Karate as a child and reached the rank of a green belt. It was a little later that Ivana knew athletics was in store for her.
Ivana Spanovic grew up in a relatively sporty family environment. Her brother Nemanja did Karate with her until he transitioned to football and her mother is also a former athlete. Some things are inevitable and Ivana Spanovic’s eventual step into track and field is a prime example.
Fast-forward a few years to the 2013 Championship in Moscow, the turning point in Spanovic’s career as a long jumper. It took nothing more than an ill but motivated woman to give it her all and win her first big medal.
Since her last Olympics in 2012, Ivana seems to have taken a dive in the river Styx. Her transformation is nothing short of astonishing. The 26-year-old has now won a bronze at the 2013 Outdoor World Championships. If that wasn’t a massive enough jump (pun intended), she went on to win gold at both the 2015 European Indoor Championships and the 2016 European Championships.
This year, she achieved her personal best long jump distance of 7.07m (indoor) at the World Indoor Championships in which she won the silver medal. She was heading for the gold but let it slip as Brittney Reese jumped a fantastic 7.22 m in the final round. This is her best chance so far to grab a medal at Rio and join the eternal ranks of celebrated Olympians.
Life at that level comes with its perks. Sometimes that includes photos and being compared to the Serbian star Novak Djokovic. To say that Ivana Spanovic and Novak Djokovic share a mutual respect would be an exaggeration. Spanovic is more of a fan and for good reason. She’s constantly spotted effusively expressing her support and admiration for the tennis star.
Spanovic works out more than most fitness enthusiasts, and for measure too, she does run a gym back home. She is also in a long-distance relationship with Vladimir Kumri who, unsurprisingly, is a fitness trainer. Ivana is a determined trainer who has engulfed herself in a world where her career runs parallel to her other fitness goals.
Don’t get her wrong, she’s not Hercules embodied. Ivana Spanovic enjoys reading books occasionally and listening to music. Her sense of humour is, however, a bit of an aberration as she is normally viewed as a dead serious gym-a-holic. Her Instagram and Twitter accounts are filled with videos of her rabbit, but all that will be forgotten by the long jumper as she guns for gold at Rio and given her form this season, she should win the title, easily.Published 09 Aug 2016, 10:02 IST