In the second article about the Olympic team, we introduce the Croatian representatives in wrestling, basketball, judo, swimming and table tennis
It is all about the past when talking about Croatian wrestling; the last Olympic success dates way back in 1984 when Vlado Lisjak won a gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympics. This year, Božo Starčević will try to bring back glory for Croatian wrestling, as he won the bronze medal won at the European Championships three years ago.
He will compete in the Greco-Roman style -74 category, and he will hit the mat on the first day of the competition, August 6th. Božo is not a favorite for the medal, but wrestling is yet another sport with a lot of surprises.
Have we written a lot about the past in this series of articles? Probably a bit too much, so we will concentrate on the future when introducing the basketball team. They have lived in the shadow of past glory for a long period, but this generation is ready to reach its own glory.
It is a team that surprised the whole basketball world at the FIBA Olympic Qualifiers beating the strong Greek and Italian teams to reach the final tournament in Rio. Few coaches turned down the job offer, and players cancellations were numerous, but Aleksandar Petrović has taken over with a little help from legendary members of the ‘92 team. The players that showed up have proved their worth and have battled their way to Rio.
Petrović made a logical move and had rewarded all the players that participated in the qualifiers with a trip to Rio, but they have no plan to travel to Brasil as tourists. Marko Arapović, Luka Babić, Miro Bilan, Bojan Bogdanović, Mario Hezonja, Filip Krušlin, Darko Planinić, Kruno Simon, Rok Stipčević, Željko Šakić, Dario Šarić, and Roko Ukić have that extra something what makes them winners.
It would be presumptuous to expect a medal from this team, as they are supposed to reach their peak in the future, but to reach the play-off phase would be considered a success. The basketball tournament lasts throughout the Olympics, and we hope to watch the Croatian team until the very end.
They face Spain in the first match of a group phase, on August 7th and later will meet Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria, and Lithuania.
Unfortunately, the Judo team will not be as strong in number as it should have been, due to a clerical mistake we reported on a few moths ago. Barbara Matić will be the sole Croatian to compete in this ancient martial art at the Olympics.
She will compete in -70 kg category, and as she has been the junior World Champion in two occasions, and has the bronze medal from 2014 European Championship, one should not be surprised if good news comes from Rio. Her performance is scheduled for August 10th.
Croatian swimming will be represented only by two athletes in Rio, Matea Samardžić in 100 and 200 meters backstroke discipline, and 400 meters medley, and Mario Todorović in 50 meters freestyle sprint. Any qualification to the finals for any of them should be considered a great success, but this is a point when we should raise the alarm for Croatian swimming.
Croatia is a sea-oriented country, at least on paper, and only two athletes at the Olympics swimming competition? A sad fact, and until the media and politicians do not turn the attention to the poor state of swimming infrastructure in Croatia, it is not likely to change.
Matea will start the competition on August 6th, while Mario Todorić has qualifiers scheduled for August 11th.
Andrej Gaćina, the thirty-year-old from Zadar is the only Croatian representative in Rio, and as table tennis competition tends to be a private party for Chinese athletes at the big tournaments, every win should be considered a success. Andrej had his best performances in the doubles in the past, so it is unfortunate that he will be alone in Rio.
His qualifying round kicks off on the first day of the Olympic Games, on August 6th.