Discus winner Sandra Perkovic, Croatia's first European champion (/ Bongarts) © Copyright
Sandra PERKOVIC, Croatia (Discus Throw, Shot Put)
Born 21 June 1990
183 cm/ 80 kg
Coach: Ivan Ivancic
Not so long ago, Sandra Perkovic was on the brink of life and death. It was Christmas 2008.
"It all started with abdominal pain. In the hospital I was wrongly diagnosed with intestinal viruses, but in fact it was appendicitis. I came to the hospital when I had already colapsed, with temperatures of 41-42 degrees, and I had 18,000 white blood cells. If it had not been for Doctor Lackovic, they would have sent me home. After his diagnosis, they sent me to surgery, but the operation was performed by another doctor and was not successful.
Six days later, my stomach was worse, and they told me that this is normal. Doctor Lackovic was again a savior when he said that it is sepsis and again I had surgery. The first operation was performed on 25 December 2008. and the other on 6 January 2009. You see that dates? The Good obviously had some plans with me. Doctors told my mother, Vesna, that 90 percent of people do not survive the operation and to go home and let them pray to survive. They told me later that I have endured thanks to a strong body, otherwise I would not have survived. Nobody believed that I would return to training this year ", says Sandra Perkovic.
Not only is she back, but after that everything in her career began to take place at the speed of a film. Already in July the same year, at the European Junior Championships in Novi Sad, she won the gold medal in the discus throw. She threw 62.44 - more than seven meters meters further than her nearest rival, which is the largest difference to the best placed runner-up in the history of the discus at the European Championships.
Because the mark was over the qualifying standard for the World Championships, in Berlin, she went there to gain experience. However, she eventually reached the finals placing ninth with 60.77. Although this was a great success for 19-year-old athletes, Sandra was crying in the Mixed Zone.
"I know that I can do much better and that is why I'm crying. If I threw the best and I was tenth, everything would be OK," she said then.
Everybody though that was funny, because Sandra was competing in a discipline in which the best results are achieved at 28 or 30 years of age, and the oldest participant in the Berlin final, Natalya Sadova, was almost 20 years older than her. We thought then that we will only see the real Sandra Perkovic 5 or 6 years later, and until then there would be many situations in which she would cry because she could not achieve high positions near discus throwers who could be her mother. But things happened quite differently.
Already in March 2010. Sandra's discus, at the Croatian Winter Cup in Split, flew up to 66.85, which was at that moment the best result achieved in the last two years. We journalists tried to explain that to Croatian athletic fans using the following words: "This result would take Sandra to both Olympic in Beijing and World gold and Berlin!"
She herself commented by saying, "I'm not too surprised because I know how far my discus is flying in training. But to talk about the World and Olympic gold ... I am still too young to think about these results. Well, just in the last year Berlin did I begin to seriously think about throwing the discus. "
And so, again for a while we seriously thought about Sandra's results, although in the Diamons League she recorded very strong performances. Among other things, she won the New York City meet, but we still did not dare to declare her a candidate for one of the medals at the European Championships, in Barcelona. The start of the Championship was not the best. Sandra in qualification threw only 55.70, and she thought that she would not qualify for the final.
Disappointed, she jumped the fence in the Mixed Zone, and fled from the Croatian media. Later she told us she had not seen us. However, it finally turned out that the mentioned result was enough for the final!
"Oh, it was no problem. Sandra will be in the finals of all to break," argued her coach Ivan Ivancic.
Two days later, Sandra, already in the first series in the final, threw the discus to 62.80 and secured a medal. When we all saw her already with the silver around her neck, in the last series she threw 64.67 and took gold ahead of Nicoleta Grasu. She had thus become the youngest European champion in the discus throw in history. In the event where the next youngest finalist in Barcelona was still five years older than Sandra and the Croatian discus thrower was born when Romania's Nicoleta Grasu prepared celebration of her 19th birthday!
Only then did the Croatian public understand what kind of pearl we have in athletics, and wanted to find out all about Sandra. And her life, even when we leave aside the almost fatal rupture of the appendix, is a truly interesting story.
"I was an active and playful child, and when I was five years old and my parents divorced, my brother and I moved with my mother to stay with my grandmother in Dubrava. I started Athletic school, plus I e trained for basketball and volleyball, given that I was high. But in the sixth class of primary school, it was clear that athletics prevailed., I began to intensively engage in shot put and hammer thorw, and in 2001 came to the club Dinamo Zrinjevac. Three years later, in the first high school year, when I started training with coach Ivan Ivancic, he immediately recognised my talent for throwing the discus and so it all began. We started working together in the winter of 2005. Before that I was running and jumping, no connection. My real development began early 2009, after the surgery. When I entered the final of the World Championships in Berlin, it was an indication that we are working great. I train twice a day, in rain and snow, I throw the discus . We train for all kinds of conditions. A lot of trips we had to improvise, no gym, no pool ...", says Sandra.
Since the divorce of her parents, fifteen years ago, Sandra was not in contact with her father, and this is a topic which for her, she says, was closed. Her father is not honest, ignored her birthdays, did not know anything about her excellent grades in school, her first love and sympathies, sickness, going to training twice a day by bus and tram, did not follow her sporting successes - from junior to senior European champion.
"My father did not care for me for fifteen years, so why now? he left me as a child of five years, he should come to me, not I to him. If for many years this did not happen , and it happened just now, I think he was late," reveals Sandra.
The rest of 2010 brought Sandra victory on the Diamond League finals in Brussels, with the new Croatian record (66.93) and her first victory before the home crowd at the athletics meeting in Zagreb (65.56). Teenage girls, thus, begin in athletics and start making their first fee.
"It was excellent on the Diamond Leaguecircuit this year. But honestly, I do not think just about money. I'm not materialistic, seriously. That is in the last place when thinking about athletics. I can live off of what we do, but I always live well, always cope. I will, I believe, continue tothrow a very long time. I'm only 20, am not get tired or thinking about it."
An alternative to throwing the discus does not exist.
"I think what I would do if I did not throw the discus? No. No I would not have worked on something else."
Sandra Perkovic will represent Europe and the Continental Cup in Split.
Discus Throw: 66.93 (2010)
Shot Put: 16.02 (2010) / 16.23 indoor (2010)
Discus Throw: 2006 – 50.11; 2007 – 55.42; 2008 – 55.89; 2009 – 62.79; 2010 – 66.93
Shot Put: 2007 – 14.47; 2008 – 15.46; 2009 – 15.46; 2010 – 16.02 (16.23 i)
2007 2nd World Youth Championships, Ostrava 51.25
2007 2nd European Junior Championships,Hengelo 55.42
2008 3rd World Junior Championships, Bydgoszcz 54.24
2009 1st European Junior Championships, Novi Sad 62.44
2009 5th European Junior Championships, Novi Sad (Shot Put) 15.42
2009 9th World Championships in Athletics, Berlin 60.77
2010 1st European Championships, Barcelona 64.67
Prepared by Marin Šarec for the IAAF 'Focus on Athletes' project. Copyright IAAF 2010.