By: Katarina Jonev
Belgrade, Jan.12, 2010 (Serbia Today) - Large number of the most decorated Serbian rowers had studied in America. After schooling they came back to Serbia and continued to win medals. Ivan Palikuca (21) is a young rower with potential to be one of the best. In the last couple of months, he has been living and studying in United States. In the last 2 years he achieved excellent results. In 2008 he won title of state champion for juniors (without helmsman) and last year state champion for seniors (duo without helmsman) - “This year I did not participate on the state championship, because on the day when it was supposed to take place there was a storm and strong wind was blowing, which had broken many boats. Competition was postponed for September, but I was already here in the USA”.
What are the most important regattas you participated in? - “I participated in many international regattas. I would like to mention two big competitions - one of them was World Junior Championship held in Beijing. I took the 12th place (4 without helmsman) and the World Championship last year for seniors to 23 years, where I finished the race on the 11th place in LM2 category. There was regatta on Bled this year – we won 3rd place in the duo for heavy rowers. We lost the gold medal for only 3 seconds and the silver for less than half a second. This was also the most interesting race I participated in. When we started the race and how the race went, 4 boats went literally in one line. It was impossible to separate and go to the lead, although we all tried, until the last 250 meters when we were separated from the fourth team, but we were still in the fight for a medal. For me it was probably the toughest race so far, but it was pretty exciting, full of tension and adrenaline”.
What was the main reason you decided to leave Serbia and go to America to study and train? - “I am studying at Mercyhurst College. I decided to come to USA for the one simple reason – in Serbia I do not have conditions to complete a “normal” University, because we have 2 times per day trainings. I had the option - to choose between training or University. I did not want to study on private universities and when a chance to go to America appeared, I accepted it. Here I have great opportunity to train and improve myself plus this is a great experience – different way of life, culture, language...Mercyhurst has a so-called "lightweight program” that is my category, plus my coach is Adrian Spracklen, son of the famous Mike Spracklen, a man who won the gold medal for Canada at the Beijing Olympics. His son is training us with similar principle so I am also honored to joint such a program”.
Did you participate in regattas in America? - 'I participated in 3 competitions in USA. First one was “Head of the Ohio”, where we won first place in the category of eights light rowers, then it was “Head of the Tennessee”, where we were third, and of course the biggest regatta in the U.S.A “Head of the Charles” in Boston, where we were tenth''.
Few years ago we have had an interview for the first time. At that time you said that the club Red Star had the best conditions for training this sport in Serbia. How much are different conditions here in Serbia and in America? - 'Well, in USA it depends from university to university. For example, here I have similar conditions as I had in the Red Star, maybe slightly better, but nothing special, while some universities have far better conditions. The advantage here is that we have very good quality boats''.
What is your next competition? - 'The first following competition should be World championship for seniors (up to 23 years). I do not know yet if I will participate. I achieved good results, advanced a lot in the last few months but still, we will see when I come back to Serbia. I have to participate in a qualifying race and prove to a national team selector that I deserve to go''.
I suppose your main goal in the future is Olympics in London? - My plans are to continue with hard trainings, much harder than now. I learned a lot from the coaches in America and my results are getting better. Also my coach from Serbia was pleased with my progress so far. Of course, my goal is going to London in 2012, trying to work and train for it, give all of myself as a member of the team that will go on qualifying for the Olympics. I have next 2 years, depending on when the election race for the Olympics will be, since each state cannot apply directly for the Olympic games, some have to pass qualification races '' -said Ivan Palikuca at the end of the interview for Serbia Today.