2 June 2024


Velika Gorica Get Together Tournament 2024


With many new people in attendance of the first EJU Get Together Tour, it is nice to see some more familiar faces. On the Velika Gorica tour stop, there was a Croatian legend among the coaching staff. From Yuki Judo Klub, London 2012 Olympian and 2009 European bronze medallist, Marijana MIŠKOVIĆ-HASANBEGOVIĆ, was passing on her passion to the adapted judoka of her club.

Medalling as recently as 2016 in Grand Slam and Grand Prix finals, and finishing her career with her team in the European Team Championships in 2017, securing the bronze, Marijana is more than just her results. Though the medals are nice, it was her pioneering status that has put her in the history books for Croatian judo. Not only was she the first senior European medallist of Croatia, but the first woman to represent the Croatian flag in judo at the Olympic Games.

Though she fight retire from competition until later, it was in 2013 when the idea of working with adapted judoka was established.

When Marina [Draskovic] went to our first Grand Prix in Rijeka in 2013, she came with a group of kids and they were all watching me. That day I told her to wait until I had my medal and I’d be back, it was my first medal in a Grand Prix, and after the medal ceremony I went back, and since that day I knew it’s what I wanted to do, it was already a part of me. Then two years later, more kids came to the Grand Prix in Zagreb and they reminded me of my promise to work with them but I still had to finish my career, my dream.

Eventually the time came when competition days were over, and a whole new life began.

I’ve been a coach for young children for a long time, and I started with two boys with cerebral palsy in my old club but they didn’t understand and thought I was wasting my time somehow. Their thought was that I could really make a difference to help the children win medals, but at that point I thought ‘why is the medal so important?’ For me it meant more to have these wins in the brain and the heart. I don’t want people to see adapted judo and feel sad, because it isn’t, I actually think they live better lives because they really live each day to the fullest. One mother I have here today, we are her family and her support, I think judo makes you realise you’re never alone, I know I could call up the girls I used to fight and ask for help, and they’d give it to me. This is what our sport is about.

The European Judo Union slogan is ‘Judo More Than Sport’, and events like this demonstrate just how real that is, with Marijana dedicating her life to increase inclusivity, along with raising her three boys.

I was doing everything to take an Olympic medal, I sacrificed with my family, and after my first son, I went back to judo. In London, I was the first woman from Croatia to go to the Olympic Games, first to take a European medal in 2009, then after London I promised that in Rio they would get a medal. Now came my second child. In the end I didn’t go but I did everything I could, and if I’m asked if I’m satisfied with my medals, but I still think now that my results don’t match my abilities as a judoka. I gave 110% always, so I trained for these Olympic, World and European medals and that’s what I think is important now.

Here, I see medals everywhere, we are all here together and we’re happy. Judo has changed and I think it has changed us, in the brain and in the heart. I am a happy woman, I have two clubs, one with adapted judo and the other not. It is hard work when I have these kids with me all of the time but when I go home I know that I’ve done the best I can do. My eldest son is competing in cadets now, and though I feel nervous seeing him fight, the emotions here and my nerves are a different level. I was competing at the highest level, and still this is worse, I was shaking on the first day. Everyone has help and has a system and I am alone, I have 42 kids.

Marijana may have felt the nerves but she certainly wasn’t showing it during the competition day of the Velika Gorica Get Together 2024.

Author: Thea Cowen