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Blog guest: Ognjen Stojanovic

Ognjen Stojanovic, Serbian triathlon athlete, as Swimming Dad #Blog guest reveals how water and swimming helped him become a top and a world class triathlon athlete, even though doctors told him he might never walk again when he was a child. As Ognjen likes to say, triathlon is his passion and the nature is his office. Throughout his 13-year long career, he has achieved numerous victories at the national, Balkan, European and world competitions. Just in 2017 he managed to win the third place at the Asian Cup in Taizho, China. Then at the Balkan championship he won the first prize and at the same time the 9 th title of the Balkan champion. At the World Cup in Salinas, Ecuador, he ended up 12 th , which was his best World Cup ranking so far.

After your surgery when you were just a five-year- old boy, doctors told you would be barely able to move, and today you are a part of the world triathlon elite. What was the “mindset or framework” you and your family needed to get out to achieve such results? In your opinion, who should be stronger, the parent or a child?

My first prognosis, after having been diagnosed with the leg-carve- perthes disease of my right hip, was that I would be barely able to walk. Maybe the first “framework” my parents needed to get out of was not to take doctor’s prognosis seriously because to them it was unthinkable that the child who had been very active until then would never be able to walk again. Then they needed to arm themselves with a lot of patience for the period of recovery that lasted for a very long time. My mum was certainly the one who made the biggest effort, because I did my exercises for several times every day (on her initiative), and after my second surgery I started swimming. Since I lived in a village, she needed to drive me each day to Novi Sad (Serbia). I was only five when I started doing this, so I don’t really remember whether this was hard for me, I loved swimming and to compete, so I didn’t have any problems attending these “recovery” trainings.

I believe it is necessary, especially in my case where my health condition depended on these trainings, for the parents to be very strong and realise how important it is to exercise regularly. It may seem as if I was “wasting” my energy, however, my everyday swimming was what made me stronger, built up my muscles, and developed them so that my hip wouldn’t suffer additional pressure. Parthes disease prognosis is usually very bad, so having running as my job today is a major success even though all the doctors said that I wouldn’t be able to run even when I got older.

What were the battels that you needed to fight the most? With yourself, others, or your environment? How much did water and the swimming help you in those battles?

Probably it was with the others, as I liked to compete. Ever since I was a kid I had a strong competitive spirit, and I looked at many things as competitions, in the same way I looked at swimming. It wasn’t always easy, because I used to swim every day six times a week during the school term and twice a week during the school break. Of course, one couldn’t keep the motivation constant and at the highest level.

Water helped me become healthy and the swimming built my character and taught me many important lessons in my life.

What was the moment when you decided you would like to train triathlon?

The key moment was the race at the Strand (river bank on the Danube in Novi Sad) which I did for fun, and then by chance I ended up doing a few trainings with a local triathlon club. Having realised that my running, even though I never did it before, went really well, given the fact that I was only a swimmer, I got some new motivation to try this new adventure. And here I am, 13 years later, triathlon has become my everyday routine and my job.


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