INTERVIEW: IVANA NINKOVIĆ – Olympic swimmer competing in City Games

Ivana Ninković turned from one of the most talented Bosnian swimmer to one of the best one in her country. Modest nice girl from Trebinje started to swim when she was five and her family during the winter drove her to the training to Dubrovnik, because Trebinje still does not have indoor swimming pool. Every training cost 50 dolars, so she decided to move to Banja Luka for better conditions and due to her big talent she crossed the Ocean to study and train in the Arizona state University. Last year famous Bob Bowman took over the swimmers in that University and as an assistant coach Michael Phelps accompanied him. Ivana was recently fighting with shoulder injurie, but has now, as she said in the interview just before the BiH final of the City Games, healed it and is back to the normal training process again. She likes America, but she also likes to come back home, where she stays for couple of weeks during the summer. Ivana yesterday participated in City Games and she had fun in front of the supportive crowd that greeted her with loud applause, showing their respect to the girl from small town that made it big in the swimming.


How would you introduce your swimming career?

I started swimming when I was five, because doctors recommended me that sport because of my lunges problems and it was the only sport I could do. First it was for fun, but then I started to won a medals and broke the records and I started loving swimming, I guess. In 2012 I was at Olympic Games in London as the first athlete from my town and as a 15 years old I was the youngest in our national team.


Breastroke is obviously the style you are the best in. Is it also the style you love the most?

Probably. It´s one of the hardest, I think. I am always under the pressure about the result in breastroke but I really like it. I also swim every other styles in the trainings, but my main sets are for sure in breastroke.


It is known that last year Bob Bowman became the head coach in your university and as an assistant coach he brought Michael Phelps. How would you describe them?

It was awesome. I went to America, because it is important to me to be good educated and I want to swim too. After my second year all of the coaches was fired and they set Bob Bowman as the head coach. I couldn´t believe that one of the best coach in the world will coach me. It is amazing and it´s great experience, I can say. It is a great opportunity to swim for them to become better. And it´s really special – I started to cry when I found out they will be our coaches.


You started to swim in Trebinje, in town that still doesn´t have indoor swimming pool. Do you believe the level of swimmers and swimming will increase when they will open it?

Oh yeah. I was, for instance, traveling many kilometers every day to do a training, it was also expensive so I am really lucky to have the big support of my family. The indoor pool will be probably open next year and I hope it will be awesome to this city.


How do you like life in America? Is it much different than here?

Well, yes. For swimming you have everything there. You have recovery, you have physical therapist, you have everything in one place and in my country, in my town I don´t have that. We don´t even have indoor pool. What I especially like in Arizona is that we train the whole year in outdoor pool, it´s really nice weather there. It´s also more modern there. And I am really busy, I don´t even have time to be homesick or something. My schedule starts at 5 in the morning and is totally full until 8 p.m. I have practices and school and classes. I don´t regret my decision to go to America. It gave me opportunity to do sport and also education. If I stayed in my country, I would have to choose, because we don´t have college system like Americans do. And when you sign the contract, you have to really follow the rules, everything is in order there, you have to come to every single training.


I´ve heard that you are also very good at your education, that you have very good marks.

Education is really important to me, this is, like I said, one of the main reason for me to go to America. I would actually maybe like to stay there after finishing my college – I have one more year, but we will see. I know that I can come home anytime so I don´t put pressure on that decision. Actually I don´t like to be bother with any decision at all. I really enjoy my life as it is and hope it will continue in that direction.


What do you count as your biggest achievement and what are your future swimming goals?

Probably go to Olympic Games when I was 15, because honestly I couldn´t imagine that someone who doesn´t have indoor swimming pool in her town and who goes every single day to practice to another country will become the first Olympian here. But it happened. Also making to semi-final to European championship means a lot to me and participating in World Championship. The future goal is for sure Olympics in 2020 and maybe semi-final or final, but we will see. I just want to swim as fastest as I can.