Milena Rasic, the kid who never gave up

The story of the middle with a killer instinct

“I was the kid who never gave up, who had goals and never stopped chasing them,” Milena Rasic told Volleyball World.

The now 30-year-old Serbian middle blocker has not simply achieved her goals; she has lived her childhood dream and reached incredible heights in the sport at both the national team and clubs levels.

Young Milena started out on her journey at the Sumadija Arandjelovac Volleyball Club in 2002. She became а professional in 2007 when she joined Dinamo Pancevo in Serbia’s top division.

“When I started practising volleyball," she told the Serbian federation website in 2020, "it was my escape from reality. I could hardly wait to meet my friends and play volleyball, and I was happy. It all fit perfectly. I was growing up and learning about the sport, but also about life in general. I realised I could make something of myself in volleyball.”

And she certainly did. At the turn of the decade, she was already well on her way as an RC Cannes player in France, and as a member of the Serbian national team.

In addition to four consecutive national titles and national cups with Cannes, Rasic helped the club to the final of the 2012 CEV Champions League, something she says she and her teammates “could only have dreamt of” at the time.

With Serbia, consecutive CEV European League titles paved the way to a historic first gold at a European Championships in 2011.

“It is an honour and a great pleasure to play for Serbia," said Rasic. "Right from the start, when you join the team, you feel like you are a part of something big. The achievements and the friends you make cannot be put into words. Our success over the years speaks for itself. Without the great atmosphere we create in the team, we wouldn’t achieve any of this. We have a dream team, but it is important that we are a true team!”

And it was certainly a fantastic decade for Serbia. Rasic and her teammates went on to win the EuroVolley again in 2017. They also earned three FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix bronze medals and an FIVB Volleyball World Cup silver, and peaked with historic Rio 2016 Olympic silver and 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship gold.

“For me, the most unforgettable matches were definitely the semifinal of Rio 2016 and the final of the 2018 World Championship,” Rasic said.

“A decade sounds like a long time, but for me it seems like I started playing volleyball just yesterday. I guess time flies when you do something you love. An unforgettable 10 years are behind us, with a lot of ups and downs - years that actually changed my life completely. So much success with our national team, representing such a small country with a big heart and desire on the court, is enough to make memories for life.”

The decade produced plenty of memories at a club level too, especially after 2014, when Rasic joined VakifBank Istanbul, the club she still competes for today. She claimed two FIVB Volleyball Women's Club World Championship titles with VakifBank in 2017 and 2018, and two bronze medals in 2016 and 2019. There were also two gold medals, one silver and a bronze in Europe’s Champions League, and of course numerous trophies in Turkey.

For a period of over a year, between October 2018 and December 2019, she was the only volleyballer on the planet holding both world titles, for national teams and for clubs. And for a substantial part of that period, the Serbian athlete also held both continental titles, the EuroVolley and the Champions League - quite a unique achievement in itself.

“All of this is just something that someone can dream of as a kid. I certainly did! I cannot even describe my happiness that my dreams came true; I have no words! And every single success made me want to push even more, with even stronger motivation and will. I experienced so much in the last decade and I am so grateful for that, mostly to all the people I had the chance to work with or share the court with,” said Rasic.

Milena Rasic’s collection of individual awards is also substantial. She was named Best Middle Blocker of the 2016 Olympics, 2018 World Championship, 2013 and 2017 World Grand Prix, 2016 and 2018 Club World Championships, 2015, 2017 and 2018 Champions Leagues, to mention just a few... In 2011 she even received the Best Spiker award at the World Grand Prix.

“I must admit I was surprised by that award. It rarely goes to a middle blocker, but everyone knows that Serbia like to attack with their middles, especially Maja Ognjenovic. I was fortunate to play with excellent setters who fed us, middles, with balls, and we scored,” she said.

“Volleyball has taught me a lot and helped me grow into a healthy and sane human being,” said Rasic.

“I learned that when I fall, I have to get up and try again - even harder and even better. No matter how many times you fall, you always need to find the strength for one more try. This applies not just to sports, but to life in general. The main lesson is to never give up!”

Read more: Roster 100 to showcase stars of volleyball and beach volleyball

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