How did you start doing sports, what motivated you, and which sport is your favourite?
I became involved in sports when I was still in primary school, in the second class to be exact. My parents turned me towards sports, and I decided to do athletics, which I had fallen in love with watching steeplechase races on television. In the beginning, it was more fun and games considering how old I was, but with time, as my results began to improved, my involvement in sports became more serious. I quickly realised that sports were more than just training and fun to me and that it was taking up a central place in my life – I might even call it a way of life today. This kind of approach brought with it great results.
At one point, when I was still a junior, I got an offer to try my hand at the triathlon. After a few training sessions, I fell in love with the triathlon and continued my sports career in a new direction. After just a few months, I became the state seniors duathlon champion (combination of running and cycling), and this is where my successes in triathlon began. I’m not sure what inspired me to change sports because I left athletics when I had my best results as the standing state senior champion in the 3000m and 5000m, but I can say that I have never regretted it. Running is part of the triathlon, and so it was only a small shift for me. Just the same, as a former athlete, I still get my best results in running, and somehow it’s the discipline I love most. Aside from that, I like watching athletics on television, but I also enjoy watching the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and other cycling races…
What do you consider your greatest sporting success?
My greatest sporting success, aside from the results I have already achieved, is surviving in the triathlon despite the problems Croatia has in the field of triathlon, considering that sporting institutions often disregard the triathlon as a small and apparently difficult sport. Unfortunately, this is nothing new or unfamiliar, but when you begin racking up results and you see that you are competent at foreign competitions, you realise that it takes a great deal of energy as an individual to make a breakthrough and succeed.
Then comes the key question as to whether you’re capable and if everything will line up just right for you to survive and succeed. I was lucky to have the great support of my parents and to have my will and persistence recognised by people who helped me to stay on my path. Because of this, I consider one of my greatest sporting successes to be placing in the top 20 (16th place) on the world ranking list and earning the right of being the 1st categorized female athlete of the Croatian Olympic Committee.
Numerous results from my athletics days led me to this path – I was a multiple champion in the 1500m and 3000m as a cadet, junior, and senior, and I was a junior record holder for the 5000m. I was also the state senior champion in the duathlon, in the long triathlon (half-Iron Man). But regardless of my status as the top athlete of the Croatian Olympic Committee, I would describe myself as a young, up-and-coming sportswoman, and I would say that the path to realizing my dreams still lies before me.
How do you train, and what are your future sporting goals?
The triathlon is a sport that has skyrocketed in popularity recently and it is one of the fastest growing sports, both among professionals and amateurs. More and more athletes are choosing this sport and more and more systems are working with triathletes. This in and of itself is quickly moving the borders, and results are better and better every year. Some of them are truly impressive and inspire awe as to how far and fast our bodies can actually go. One often asks oneself where the limits are. This is why any professional dedication to sports requires a great deal of time.
The complexity of the triathlon as a discipline composed of three sports also requires a specific amount of time in order to ‘perfect’ all three skills. I set aside 4 to 6 hours a day for training, which boils down to 2 to 3 training sessions a day. I usually begin my day with swimming practice, and the afternoons are reserved for cycling or running, or a combination of the two. My training sessions are planned out and sent to me by a trainer from Slovenia, Miloš Petelin (coordinator of the Slovenian triathlon representation, ITU delegate), with whom I have worked since 2012. We are in touch daily in order to track my progress as best as possible and plan my training sessions. I often go to Slovenia if it is an important part of the season, and we then do both training and testing. I usually train alone in Croatia, but before important races or during particular preparations I train with a partner, and occasionally also with other athletes.
After a short break due to an injury, which is now behind me, my plans for 2018 are to return to racing. My training is going great and I hope to start again at the European and World Triathlon Championships in the PRO category, and at ITU, Iron Man, and other races. In the preparatory parts of the season, I hope to attend some races as a preparation for important competitions and to check my condition, and if I have the opportunity, I also hope to take part in some cycling races. I would love to take part in a chrono race and the state mountain biking championships, which is my great love, but also in races like the Istria Granfondo, especially because it is held in Umag.
In your opinion, what are the advantages of northwestern Istria for joggers/runners and cyclists?
Istria is the perfect destination for anyone looking for an active holiday, for any athlete, and especially for cyclists and runners/joggers. Cycling and running/jogging are two sports that offer every visitor the opportunity to experience the place they are staying to the fullest. Istria has the perfect climate, which makes outdoor sports possible almost the entire year round, and this is a great advantage that not every destination can boast. This is why I see this part of Croatia as the perfect destination for professional athletes looking for a base to train from, as this is one of the main requirements. Aside from this, Istria has been a well-known cycling destination for years. The climate, the roads, the marked trails, the beautiful and untouched nature, and the numerous races are all reasons why this part of Croatia stands out from the rest of the country.
With cycling maps, rent-a-bike services, roadside assistance and bike hotels, cycling lovers get top service here. Aside from professionals, other guests also have the opportunity to experience Istria by bike, as well as to visit us outside the main season and experience a completely different kind of tourism. In addition to the marked and maintained cycling paths, Istria also offers marked racing courses. Running/jogging is becoming a more and more popular sport, including trail running, and Istria’s natural resources again put it on the list of unmissable destinations. Its cycling paths are also running paths, and no one can resist the charms of running on marked seaside trails. People want to do sports, they want to spend their free time in nature and in good company, they want to have an active holiday. For me, sports are the future. Istria’s characteristics mean it offers significantly more than just sun and sea, and ensure a tourist season that lasts all year round. I’m certain that everyone here is well aware of this, and that we are going in the right direction.
The fact that we are aware of the region’s potential, as well as that this potential has been recognised outside of Croatia, is supported by the numerous large races held in Istria, such as the Tour de Croatia, the 100 Miles of Istria race, Iron Man Pula, and others… These are all reasons why I decided to change where I lived and move from Zagreb to Umag. As a triathlete, the conditions for cycling and running, as well as for swimming, are especially important, and Umag offers me great conditions for all three. So I hope Istria and Umag will soon become unmissable destinations for every triathlete. I’m sure this change will have a positive effect on me, and help me attain good results in the future, and that this alone will help me present Istria in a positive light. I train daily on all of these trails, and I still look forward to exploring the region.
What are you doing currently?
As an athlete, I’m especially happy to have been given the chance to connect sports, which are my passion, with business. After years of sports experience and a few years of experience working in the sporting industry, I have been given the opportunity to channel my knowledge and experience into a project, which I am currently running at Istraturist in Umag. I recognised Umag as a town that offers the ideal conditions for sports, especially triathlon when I was still coming here to train with my club and the national team. Istraturist and Umag have long been on the list of tourist destinations with great sports amenities. From better-known and well-developed sports like tennis, cycling and football to the introduction of new sports in accordance with international trends, which will enable us to go a step further. This is where I got the idea to set up a triathlon in Umag and to connect the sports triathlon consists of – swimming, cycling and running.
The trend towards sports is growing worldwide, and the sports I have mentioned are especially popular. There are more and more organised races all over the world, and more and more people are competing. As there are more and more runners, cyclists and triathletes, why not offer our guests the opportunity to run and cycle in Umag? During the tourist season, I lead cycling and running tours with guests. I am convinced that my knowledge, my experience in work with athletes and the results I have attained will allow me to positively present Istria and encourage people to fall in love with these sports and with the region. And, of course, to visit us again.
The running training sessions have been designed for everyone, regardless of their age, experience, or running shape, and the routes are mostly fun coastal routes with interesting and educational content. Our cycling tours consist of riding mountain bikes on northwestern Istria’s marked cycling trails, of which there are more than 500km. Cycling trails in Istria are one of the best ways to discover its natural beauty. I hope that more and more people will be interested so we can organise rides for beginners and more advanced riders, as well as mountain biking and street cycling, in order to offer something to suit everyone’s individual taste.
Aside from this, my basic goal is to popularise the triathlon through its basic sports and to draw attention to the conditions we offer for these sports. From nature to infrastructure, and now with professional guidance, Umag truly is the perfect base for every triathlete. My goal is to take advantage of my acquaintances and my sporting results to convince triathletes (both professional and amateur) from all over the world to come here to train and to attend camps and races we will organise. I want to take the triathlon to the next level, and a sporting town like Umag deserves to be the place for this.