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Veljkovic driven by love of volleyball

 
An emotional Stefana Veljkovic during the 2018 World Championship final
Trento, Italy, April 29, 2020 – A three-time Olympian and current world champion, Serbia's Stefana Veljkovic is entirely motivated by her love of volleyball.

“I love volleyball. That love is the only thing that motivates me, and it drives me towards my goals and the place that I am at right now,” said the 30-year-old middle blocker in an online interview with the national federation of Serbia. “Right from the start I fell in love with volleyball, I keep loving it and that is something everyone sees, I guess. When you do something from the bottom of your heart, people will definitely notice. When the emotion is pure and people see that, the hard work all these years is worthwhile.”


“It took a lot of years for me to get satisfied and for the coach to get satisfied; and for things to look as they should,” Veljkovic added. “It was only four or five years ago that I started to be pleased with my overall performance. Now I am a well-formed player, but only after years and years of hard work, tears and sweat.”

In addition to the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship gold and the 2016 Olympic silver, the 1.90m-tall athlete has bragging rights over a 2015 FIVB Volleyball World Cup silver, three FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix bronze medals, three European Championship medals, including two continental titles, a spot on the EuroVolley 2017 Dream Team, etc. For all that success she is thankful to long-standing Serbia coach Zoran Terzic for showing her the way “on court, but off the court as well.”

“This man educated us and I am so grateful. All of us, girls, have spent more time with the national team than at home. We are a true family. I learned so much about discipline and so on. I grew up and I am thankful for that.”

Veljkovic spikes successfully against Italy in the final of the 2018 World Championship

In her long career, Stefana Veljkovic has worn various shirt numbers, but the one she’s been playing with on the national squad since 2011 is the one she treasures the most.

“11 is my favourite number,” she said. “Vesna Citakovic (former captain of Serbia) left it to me. It was an honour to wear the number of such a big person and a team captain, a person who did so much for Serbian volleyball. And this number got to be my lucky number. It won me the most precious medals and went through a lot with me, so I am very attached to it. It’s the winning number; magical, if you like...”

Veljkovic’s club career is highlighted by the 2019 Champions League gold with her current Italian club, Igor Gorgonzola Novara. In fact, she is the only player who is currently a reigning European champion at both the national team and club team levels.


After the club season was interrupted by the spread of the coronavirus, Veljkovic managed to make her way from Novara to Trento, where she isolated herself together with her boyfriend Srecko Lisinac, also a middle blocker and also a reigning continental champion with the national team of Serbia. Lisinac also won FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship gold in 2018 with the team of Trentino Volley.

“Srecko and I are completely isolated. It is not easy; we have to be strong and stay positive,” Veljkovic commented. “It is especially hard for people who are used to move a lot all the time and I am very energetic. I am not saying that he is not, but when things are difficult, he is the one who calms me down by saying, ‘look at us - we are safe; imagine we were somewhere on the road and could not get back.’ We have moments when we are nervous, but it is normal. We call people, we practice, we play games, we read books, we support each other and we don’t let each other fall mentally. Thankfully Srecko is so supportive. I hope I am too.”

“We should all stay at home. I am not speaking only about Italy, but also about Serbia and the whole world. The situation is complicated and I think we should be disciplined. Only this way we can prevail,” she said about the current situation in the world.


Despite the postponement of the 2020 Olympics, Veljkovic and her Serbian teammates stay in touch, keep in good spirits and look forward to the Games next year. In fact, their WhatsApp group is called ‘Serbia all the way to Tokyo’, she revealed.

“We keep in touch, we share stuff, we send congratulations... Nothing special, it's just to feel that we’re together all the time,” she said. “Of course, there are moments when you need to be serious, but we are one happy bunch, we laugh a lot and it feels really nice.”

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