The Story of Two Top Taekwondo Players Who Swapped Sweden for Split

Daniela Rogulj

June 29, 2019 – At a time when thousands of young people are leaving Croatia in search of a better life, job, and prospect than Croatia can offer, two young, top athletes chose precisely the opposite when they decided to swap Sweden for Split. 

Jutarnji List uncovers the story of Nikita and Leon Glasnović, a brother and sister who have been members of the Split taekwondo club ‘Marjan’ for the past two years. Nikita proudly boasts two European medals, one world medal and was a semi-finalist of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. Thanks to their Croatian parents and holidaying in Dalmatia every summer, it didn’t take much to make the move to Split for good.

Nikita had no problem swapping a European country like Sweden for the small but mighty Croatia. 

“The difference between Croatia and Sweden is day and night. Not once in my life in Sweden did I experience the strong team support that I do in Croatia. We are constantly together and I am speechless when I see how well our team is arranged, how well the system works, from the organization to the coach and physiotherapist. Nothing worked in Sweden, and it was only quarrels and disorganization. Without our parents, we could not have done anything and they were the ones who funded our development. We received nothing from the system but a scholarship from the Olympic Committee before the Olympics in Rio,” Nikita said.

Nikita’s younger brother Leon has a similar experience. He recently competed for Croatia at the World Championships in Manchester in the category up to 58kg.

“The biggest problem in Sweden was the lack of support from the system and the Federation. I competed for the Swedish national team and had to borrow a doctor from Serbia for my fight. In Croatia, we have everything we need. I feel that behind us is a whole team of people and that they give everything to make sure the athletes have what they need.”

Leon is still a high school student in Sweden where he intends to enroll in college, but the education system is far different than in Croatia – the athletes have more freedom to match their careers.

“The education system in Sweden is free and allows me to enroll in college after finishing high school, and continue living in Split and take online classes.”

Sweden and Croatia differ in their sporting achievements, and it’s easy to see that Nikita and Leon have Croatian genes.

“I like that you live for success in Croatia, and there’s pride when you win something. I like to be part of the national team where the fans cheer for you from the stands while you’re fighting, and I love cheering for my teammates.”

The Glasnović siblings believe they have acquired all the preconditions for achieving their sports goals at the Marjan taekwondo club.

“We received everything after coming to Marjan, from physiotherapists to nutritionists, doctors, coaches, teams, absolutely everything. My wish is to win an Olympic medal, which is the only one missing,” Nikita said, and Leon joined:

“I believe that I will continue doing this and train to reach the level to win medals at all major competitions. This is the primary goal in my career, to be in the top and climb the podium at every major event.”

Leaving their life in Sweden has not been challenging, and they quickly adapted to Split as their new home.

“We adapted from the first second, and Split agrees with us – the way we live, the climate, the relaxed life. Everything is easy here and we like it. I only miss family, but I hope mom will come soon and we will be together. I never regretted the fact that I decided to change my nationality,” Nikita makes clear.

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