Sunday, December 6, 2009
Serbian Water Polo Star
By Katarina Jonev
Belgrade, Dec.5th, 2009 (Serbia Today) - Barbara Bradajic (18) has been following water polo since she was a child but she officially started to train in a female club when she was 12, at Tas training center.
“I spent my whole life by the pool watching water polo being played. When I found out that there was a water polo club for women I started to train mainly out of curiosity. Until then, I had been playing volleyball for 4 years competitively and I thought volleyball was the love of my life. But then, after only one summer, I switched to water polo. For some time I tried to train both sports at the same time, but water polo prevailed.”
When asked if the stereo type of water polo as ‘a male sports’ was a barrier for her, Bradajic recounted that she was quickly convinced otherwise. Bradajic enjoys the tempo of the game the most.
“For me personally adrenaline plays a great role! I often say that I love the moment when adrenaline hits me in the pool. Conditioning plays a very important role in this sport. Our swimming trainings consist 5 to 7 kilometers of swimming a day. But when I am not completely physically ready, adrenaline pulls me through to give my best performance and win,” said Bradajic.
Bradajic remarks that the reactions she gets over her choice of sport varies, but it is never negative.
“The first reaction is, ‘Wow, really? Something like that exist? In Serbia?’ and then I start to explain that there has been a female water polo program in Serbia for 12 years. People love to hear that the sport exists in this country. In the beginning, for some of them, it is a bit strange. There are some funny comments such as, girls who are training water polo are probably 'crazy women who just want to fight in the water’ but that is as bad as it gets.”
A few weeks ago, the Belgrade Championships for Women’s water polo was held in our capital city. Besides the Tas training center, Vracar and Partizan training centers participated and international guests from Greece, club Iraklis, competed. Bradajic’s team won second place.
It was organized so that every club plays against all the other clubs and the team which is undefeated wins. We were second with two wins and one loss against Iraklis,” Bradajic said
The Belgrade Championship is one of the 15 medals that Bradajic has won to date.
When asked about her training conditions, Bradajic points out that she and her team have encountered some real problems, and do not have the backing the need.
“The biggest problem is that this sport is not popular. Iraklis from Greece, for example, has more than 100 girls that train. Compared to Tas that has about 20 girls, it is huge difference. We are striving to achieve results, and provide ourselves conditions for training. We had a difficult time while the pool at Tas was closed. On the weekends we traveled to Obrenovac which is 45 minutes away from Belgrade.” said Bradajic as she recounted the temporary closure of her pool earlier in the year for repairs.
Bradajic’s brother trains with a water polo team and her father also played competitively. She appreciates their input now, but it was not always that way.
“When I began to play my first games, 6 years ago, as soon as I left the pool the two of them started to criticize me by saying things like ‘why you didn't do this or that, why you didn't hit the ball in that angle’ but not anymore. I remember that I hated to loose game, because after only few minutes they started talking about my mistakes. Nowadays, the situation is different, mostly because I have matured as a player and sharpened my skills over the years”.
When asked what the most important advice is that she has been given, Bradajic immediately has her answer.
“Do not fight in the water and do not play dirty! My brother, my father and my coach told me this and it stayed in my memory for a good reason. Many girls play dirty, and want to hit under the water. With time I learned that it is a sign that the player is not confident in herself, probably physically not in good shape, so she plays aggressively. That type of play tells me to fight for the ball, give a goal or assist. I am very grateful for that advice. I think calm characterizes a quality player.”
Bradajic has no role model in women's water polo, but she does have a male role model. It is the captain of a Serbian team Vladimir Vujasinovic. She plays the position of the left quarterback and on left wing, is excellent in defense and has a strong and accurate shot. Last year she scored more than 30 goals.
In the last few months she is getting more and more offers to go abroad and continue to train there.
“My plans for my water polo career have been changing from day to day since I started practicing it. I had several offers from Switzerland and, after the Belgrade Championship, Iraklis offered to sign me to play for them. Since I am a senior in high school, in a few months I'll enter the university, and I will have to think very carefully if I am going to accept an offer,” concluded Bradajic.