All round talent has mum to thank for introduction to volleyball
One of the most talented players in the world and certain to be one of the stars of the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix 2014 and the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championships Italy 2014, Serbia's Jovana Brakocevic used to play basketball as a child. However, when her interest started to wane and she stopped playing sport altogether, it was time for her mother to intervene. “I started playing volleyball because my mum made me do it. I didn’t like it at first, but she couldn’t stand to see me doing nothing every day.”
Brakocevic initially hated practicing, but gradually started to fall in love with volleyball. A fortuitous turn of fate, as Brakocevic has since established herself as one of the best spikers on the planet – and she has made a nice living out of her new favourite sport.
At just 26 years of age, the 1.96-metre attacker has already picked up more titles than most of her colleagues will do in their entire career. In 2011 she won the European Championship with the Serbian national team, defeating Germany 3-2 in a dramatic final to clinch gold in her home country. She also added the Europa League title to her collection in 2010 and 2011. The FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix yielded two bronze medals in 2011 and 2013. And, more often than not, Brakocevic was one of the key players in securing this success – as proven by her plethora of individual awards.
In 2011 she was named “MVP” in both the European Championship and the European League. She was also honoured with the title of “Most Valuable Player” in the CEV European Champions League and the FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship in 2013. Her attacking prowess was instrumental in her club VakifBank Istanbul winning both events. However, she knows the full meaning of such awards. “I was really happy and full of emotions that I can’t describe, but I am aware that in a team sport an individual award actually belongs to the whole team, as well as all the staff and all the people who helped and supported me and worked with me to become a better player. I am grateful and can’t thank them enough,” Brakocevic said.
And she never rests on her laurels: “The awards are important as long as you understand that they are just for that moment, that one game, that one competition. The next one you have to work twice as hard to prove that you deserved the one you received before. But it’s also a good way to push you to be even better and motivate yourself to work harder!” Self-motivation is one of Brakocevic greatest strengths. In her youth she took inspiration from her idols, the Grbic brothers, who enjoy legendary status around the world. She no longer needs any idols, however. The fire comes from within: “For example, I play better when I am angry.”
Emotion is a key part of her game, and her life. This is why, after spells in China (Guangdong Evergrande) and Japan (JT Marvelous), the attractive young lady with the model figure has ended up playing her volleyball in Turkey – the atmosphere is similar to in Serbia. “I like the life there, and the people both in and out of volleyball. The league is strong and our fans are incredible. They are very passionate about the colours of their team. I receive letters and some gifts from them, which I keep at my home in Serbia.”
She will soon return to Serbia: after another very successful season, which included second place in the CEV European Champions League and national titles in Turkey, she will once again line up for the Serbian national team. The main goal for this year is obviously the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014.
Brakocevic played a key role in qualifying, which was achieved despite a 3-2 defeat in the big game against Azerbaijan. And she would like to enjoy the same kind of success in the final round as she tasted right at the start of her international career. Back in 2006 she was part of the team that surprisingly won bronze – as Serbia and Montenegro back then – at the World Championship in Japan.
Incidentally, painting has proven to be the perfect balance for multi-talented Brakocevic exciting lifestyle as a volleyball star. “I draw when I’m sad or frustrated. It relaxes me,” says the Serb. “I always liked to draw, usually comic things. I “copy” them and sometimes add something from myself,” Brakocevic says: “I’ve drawn since I was a kid.” As such, her relaxing hobby began at around the same as her mother gave her an all-important nudge towards a successful volleyball career.