Sandra Paović has decided to end her illustrious sport career.
A gold medalist at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, table tennis player Sandra Paović (34), recently took part in the World Team Championships for Disabled Persons in Bratislava and won a bronze medal with Mirjana Lučić. However, after returning to Croatia, she has announced the end of her sport career, and the reasons are “irreconcilable differences” with the national team coach Mirela Šikoronja, reports Index.hr on May 23, 2017.
“I am very sad and disappointed to end my sports career in this way. I still had a lot to give to Croatian table tennis team for persons with disabilities, but it is time to leave because of irreconcilable differences with coach Mirela Šikoronja. I feel betrayed and there is no chance that I will change my mind,” Paović said.
“For four years I have been a member of the national team for persons with disabilities, and during these four years coach Šikoronja and team manager Emil Gubica have not done a single training session with me. I do have my own coach, but when you train with the same person, you cannot be sure whether you are doing everything the way you should. That is why I had asked for advice from them, but I did not get it. I have already repeatedly warned them that I was dissatisfied with a lot of things, but the Croatian Paralympic Committee did not listen to me. They thought I was making things up. While I was a healthy athlete, I always did my best. I was a fighter and sometimes I quarreled with coach Neven Cegnar, but I knew he was going to be with me when it was necessary. Now, however, that hasn’t been the case. I have been betrayed and I feel terrible that I have to end my career in such a way.”
Paović won the medal in Bratislava in the competition of athletes with a degree of disability 9 and 10, which are the lowest levels of disability, while her category is 6, which is the highest degree of disability. Her partner in Bratislava, Mirjana Lučić, praised the way Paović played the tournament. “I have trained a lot for my first major medal, but without Sandra I could not win it. I am endlessly thankful to her,” said Lučić.
The announcement of the end of Paović’s career somewhat overshadowed other Croatian table tennis players who have returned from Bratislava with medals. Anđela Mužinić and Helena Dretar-Karić won silver in Bratislava, just like Pavao Jozić and Vjeko Gligorović.
Sandra entered the Paralympic family after a traffic accident in January 2009. A year earlier, she participated at the Beijing Olympics, where she reached the second round. She was a multiple champion of Croatia, and she played for clubs from Switzerland, Germany and France. In 2000, Sandra won bronze at the European Championships in Bremen in a mixed pair with Roko Tošić, and she also has a team silver from the European Championships in 2005 in Arhus.