Uros Kovacevic in action during the Olympic qualifiers in January
Trento, Italy, May 29, 2020 – Hard work and commitment in training are the keys to success according to 2018 club world champion Uros Kovacevic.
“Much smarter people have said it and I can’t say anything different. If you want to reach your goals, you have to work hard, be committed, disciplined and a true professional,” said the Serbian international, who was voted Europe's best male player of 2019.
And he has worked hard to stay in shape during the self-isolation period, at home in Trento, Italy, where he was reached for the interview.
The 27-year-old told the Serbian federation website: “I work out on my own every day. I am working on myself, I follow programmes and I have even lost weight. And no one forces me to work. No one tells me that I have to work. I do it because of myself, because I have to be in shape when things get back to normal and show my best performance in matches and in training.”
Despite his young age, Kovacevic has already demonstrated that his recipe for success is working. His resume includes an impressive collection of trophies and individual awards from major international competitions. His latest achievement at an FIVB tournament came at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship, where in addition to the gold medal with his Italian team Trentino Volley Trento, he claimed one of the two outside spiker spots on the Dream Team. It was one of the most memorable celebrations of his career.
“Nobody gave us good odds of winning that competition, and when we won we celebrated like crazy,” the 1.98m-tall athlete said. “To be the club world champions, with the greatest club teams in the world competing for the title, was a dream come true. This is the reason we play the game - for the joy of that single day, for that celebration...”
Kovacevic announced that he is leaving the club from Trento as his three-year contract is now over, but he looks forward to playing some ball with his teammates from the Serbian national team this summer.
“To spend six months without volleyball would be a disaster for me. So I can’t wait to see the guys this summer. I miss them. We share a lot together, successes and failures, we have fun... I would really like us to get together and relive the atmosphere from last year when we took gold in Paris,” said Kovacevic, referring to the 2019 CEV European Championship where Serbia claimed the title while Uros was named MVP and Dream Teamer, followed by the recognition as European male player of the year.
“It means a lot to me. We all play for some kind of a prize. In this particular case, we all played so well that it wouldn’t be unfair if that award went to Aleksandar Atanasijevic, or Nemanja Petric, or Srecko Lisinac... But as for me, it is a dream come true - a truly unforgettable experience,” he added. “Of course, an individual award means a lot more when you also win the gold medal with the team. The collective prize is much more important. The individual award feels good and gives you extra motivation.”
This was not the first continental triumph for Kovacevic. He was only 18 when he and his Serbian teammates won the title at EuroVolley 2011.
“Coach Igor Kolakovic called me to join the men’s team for a friendly tournament and after a couple of days he said, ‘You are going with us to the European Championship in Vienna.’ So I went, having practiced with the team just once. And we won gold! It was madness, what we did back then... And nobody expected that. In 2019 people doubted it, but we knew we could do it, but in 2011 we all doubted it!” recalled Kovacevic.
“Kolakovic was one of the best coaches of my career,” Kovacevic pointed out. “When I was 16 he gave me a rare chance and took me to play for his Slovenian club team in the Champions League. I am so thankful for that. Literally, at the age of 16 I went abroad and became a man. He coached me in both the club and in the national team, and it meant a lot to me.”
Before receiving that first call to the senior national team, young Uros was already a recognisable name in the world of volleyball. He had just become a 2011 FIVB U19 World Championship gold medallist and MVP, following up on the same honours from the 2011 CEV U19 European Championship, bronze from the 2011 FIVB U21 World Championship and the 2010 CEV U21 European Championship, gold from the 2009 FIVB U19 World Championship and silver from the 2009 CEV U19 European Championship.
“We were lucky, I guess,” he commented humbly. “But we had a very good generation indeed and won everything there was to win. 2011 was an unforgettable year!”
Later on, Kovacevic won gold and silver from the FIVB Volleyball World League, silver from the 2013 FIVB U23 World Championship, as well as bronze from EuroVolley 2017, and made his Olympic debut at London 2012, but he feels bad about missing the Games for a second time in a row.
“That’s the collective feeling of our team,” he said. “We thought we belonged in Tokyo, especially after winning the European Championship. Unfortunately, we failed and we will regret it for the rest of our careers. That match with Italy in Bari was crucial. We made a lot of mistakes and they played great. I can only hope we manage to qualify for Paris.”
“Our golden Olympians from Sydney 2000 were my idols when I was making my first steps in volleyball,” Kovacevic said. “Because of them, kids in Serbia liked volleyball and I am so grateful to them for that.”
Uros also had his older brother Nikola, who was also a very successful national team player, to look up to. His father and uncles were also quality volleyballers, so his sporting path was clear from the beginning.
“Volleyball was always my one and only choice and I grew fond of it. I realised that I was good at it and I wanted to see how much I could achieve. I like playing tennis and basketball for fun, but volleyball is the only sport I practiced. Nikola was of great help to me - not only volleyball-wise. He also taught me a great many other things...”
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