Iva Obradovic; leading women's rowing in Serbia
There are few women to have worn the Serbian colours for rowing as relentlessly as Iva Obradovic. There are even fewer who have competed at an Olympic Games.
Iva Obradovic grew up hearing stories from her father about international regattas, however Obradovic never thought she would become a top performer on the world stage. It was the stories about regattas at Amsterdam and Montreal, instead of Cinderella, that Obradovic recalls fondly.
Obradovic's father was an Olympic spare for the former Yugoslavian national rowing team, and thus shared his loved of travel and sport with his children. While growing up in Novi Sad, Serbia Obradovic took part in Serbian national dancing for over ten years before deciding she wanted a change. The local rowing club was located conveniently close to her house. At six feet, Obradovic made the transition seamlessly.
Following a bronze medal finish in the women’s single sculls at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships in 2004, Obradovic decided to embark on university life. She was recruited as a student athlete to the University of California Berkeley (Cal) in the United States. Obradovic arrived at university with international experience, and an impressive ergometer score. However, there were many others on the California Berkley rowing team that also possessed similar criteria. After a tough winter of training, she was named to the top eight, or ‘Varsity’ eight. “It’s something very different to be on a team of 40 girls. I learned how to race. I loved every day that I rowed for Cal,” says Obradovic.
The women’s head coach, Dave O’Neill, taught his group to focus on the tough parts of a 2km race; the third and fourth 500’s. This is something that resonated with Obradovic, and she continues to employ this mentality towards racing.
Obradovic's internal competitiveness was fostered through training with a special group of motivated student-athletes, including two-time Olympic gold medallist for the United States, Erin Cafaro.
“Erin changed the way that I look at sport," says Obradovic. "I learned how to be aggressive. She taught me to find out what my strengths and my weaknesses are. She taught me to work on my weaknesses and use my strengths as a back-up.” Impressive results from these two talented women confirm that this statement applies.
In 2005, Obradovic became a United States university national champion (NCAA) and just six weeks later she took home the gold in the women’s single at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships. Rowers from all levels can attest to the magnitude of difference between rowing the eight and the single.
Obradovic managed to balance her success at Cal and success rowing for Serbia well enough to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in the women’s single. Leading into the 2012 quadrennial, Obradovic focused on the single, however she missed out on qualifying for the Olympic Games by seconds.
After taking time off from her studies to train full time, Obradovic returned to the United States to complete her studies in 2013. University rules meant that Obradovic could not compete for Cal, so she became an assistant coach and started training with California Rowing Club.
The opportunity to work with World Championship medal winning coach, Bernhard Stomporowski arose. Obradovic also started training with the United States 2013 lightweight women's double sculls and the men's quadruple sculls, who were based out of California Rowing Club.
“I loved training with part of the US team," says Obradovic. "The autumn of 2013 was the most amazing time of my life.” Stomporowski’s relaxed nature helped put things in perspective for Obradovic. “Bernhard taught me how to work hard but also enjoy it (rowing). There was so much positive energy for me.”
There have been a number of Serbian athletes who have pursued academics and rowing in the United States and Obradovic notes that when they return to Serbia they possess a greater sense of ‘team’. Obradovic attributes this to the culture of college athletics, and sees this impacting the younger Serbian athletes on the team in a positive way with the group functioning in a more inclusive way.
Obradovic now has her sights set on Rio 2016 with pair partner Ivana Filipovic. The two are the only women currently training full time for the Serbian national team, so they use each other for competition and support.
Obradovic says, “The pair is becoming more and more competitive with more boats being allowed the chance to qualify for the Olympics.” With Filipovic they remain optimistic that the best from them is yet to come.
Copy thanks to Kristen Kit