London 2012
Marko Podrascanin of Serbia ready to spike
Marko Podrascanin with teammate Sasa Starovic
Marko Podrascanin of Serbia tries to score
Serbia team in London
Serbia Marko Podrascanin blocking Tunisia Hichem Kaabi
Unsuccessful block by Serbia's Mihajlo Mitic, Marko Podrascanin and Bojan Janic

 

Marko Podrascanin: It’s our time now

London, Great Britain, July 31, 2012 - Marko was 13-year-old and that summer he was stuck in front of his TV screen. He had almost forgotten his sport bag with the karategi, the white kimono that he used for training in the last six years. It was the summer of 2000 and Yugoslavia was surprising the world of volleyball on their road for the gold medal. The Gbric brothers’ grit, the unstoppable back row “pipe” attack of Vujevic, the spikes of Ivan Miljkovic: everything convinced young Podrascanin, on Monday, after the gold, to look for the nearest volleyball gym together with three school mates. They knew that ten or fifteen children were usually attending the courses they found.

London, Great Britain, July 31, 2012 - Marko was 13-year-old and that summer he was stuck in front of his TV screen. He had almost forgotten his sport bag with the karategi, the white kimono that he used for training in the last six years. It was the summer of 2000 and Yugoslavia was surprising the world of volleyball on their road for the gold medal. The Gbric brothers’ grit, the unstoppable back row “pipe” attack of Vujevic, the spikes of Ivan Miljkovic: everything convinced young Podrascanin, on Monday, after the gold, to look for the nearest volleyball gym together with three school mates. They knew that ten or fifteen children were usually attending the courses they found.

“I clearly remember that moment: we looked around and it was more than one hundred of us, maybe one hundred and fifty” recalls Marko Podrascanin at Earls Court, twelve years after the day that changed his life. The day when he forgot his kimono to handle a Mikasa.

London 2012 is a great step ahead for the team of Serbia, heir of the team of Sydney. Apart from the World League, for the first time in a world top event the team does not display any of the golden guys in its starting list. Nikola Grbic, the outstanding setter, left the group after the 2010 World Championship.

“We’re a younger team now. These things happen in sport. The older guys are out. It’s our time now.”

Now Marko Podrascanin is ready to perform his astonishing block in London. “I know I’m a strong blocker, but it’s not really important to count out my blocks at the end of the Olympics, but most important is playing well as a team. From the first serve to the last spike, that’s what you need in volleyball.”

Marko was 20 when he crossed the Adriatic Sea to join a sort of university of volleyball like Serie A. “I left Novi Sad because I knew that to achieve my goals I needed to play were the best players were. So far, that’s the Italian championship. I first went to Corigliano, in the south of Italy and after London I will play for the fifth season with Lube Banca Marche Macerata, the club which is the current Italian champion. Everything I learned to become a good player, I’ve learnt over there.”

Curiously, Earls Court is a familiar place for Podrascanin. Serbia was one of the team which tested the Olympic field of play one year ago for the test event. And won it. “Everything around is different from what  can see now. The main difference is that I’m here because I want to listen to our national anthem after the last game. Our start was not so good, and the match we played today with Tunisia was a little bit better. The life in the village can give us more emotion, but even more problems. In comparison with other sports, with their venues inside the Olympic Park, we’re one hour and a half far from Earls Court. I had to take two coffees to wake me up this morning at 6. That’s normal if you schedule the whole tournament in one venue: you know from the beginning that you’re going to play one match early in the morning and one maybe at 10 p.m.”

Against all odds, Serbia has a secret weapon. “We share a talisman: our laugh, because we’re young and we’re happy to be here. And we have a human talisman like our “New Miljkovic”, as people named him. Aleksandar Atanasijevic is our new diagonal hitter: he is only 20-year-old, but you can recognize his talent, with the same exceptional characteristics that Ivan Miljkovic showed when he was young. Moreover he is an amazing person. He can dance and laugh all day long and always stirs up our mood. We all hope he’s going to become the new Ivan.”

And what about karate? “I would recommend karate to every volleyball player as a training. We’re tall people and this discipline teaches you perfectly how to use your body. I never had problems with my leg thanks to the trainings I had when I was a youngster. I’m still using karate exercises to stretch today.”

 

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The older guys are out. It’s our time now
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Additional information

After the saga of Grbic brothers, Serbia national team is still a family affair. Sasa Starovic is the brother of Sanja of the women's team. Nikola and Uros Kovacevic, both in London, are brothers. Player Mihajlo Mitic is the son of Miodrag Mitic, in Earls Court as doctor of the women's team and a former player himself: he was an Olympic team member in Moscow 1980 and won the bronze in the European Championshiop with Yugoslavia in Paris 1979.