Olympic Hopeful Q&A: Marko Marjanovic

June 15, 2008

BERKELEY - CalBears.com spoke to now former Cal men's rower Marko Marjanovic prior to the June 5-7 IRA Regatta, in which he ended his collegiate career as part of the Cal varsity eight that placed third in the Varsity Challenge Cup. Marjanovic will attempt to qualify for the Olympics as part of Serbia's four with coxswain, which includes 2008 Cal freshmen Jovan Popovic and Goran Todorovic, at the Olympic Qualification Regatta slated to run from June 15 through June 18 in Poznan, Poland.

CalBears.com: Do you have a good chance to qualify?

Marjanovic: 'I think we have a really high chance because we train really hard and we're strong guys. And last year at World Championships we did really well. Because they're freshmen they gained a lot of physical strength here at Cal. I think this year we have a really good chance to qualify.

'We won't have that much time to row in the four, but we use every chance we have here, like on Sundays or anytime we don't have practice as a team, to go out in a four or in pairs and just train.'

CalBears.com: How often are you in touch with your national team coaches back home?

Marjanovic: 'We are in daily contact. We talk every day because they have to know how we did each day, how we felt in the boat. They need to stay in contact with us, so that way we're in a straight path, so we know exactly what we need to do, and if we ever have any problems they can always give us advice.'

CalBears.com: Do your countrymen Jovan and Goran look to you for advice?

Marjanovic: 'Yes, because I'm a senior and also a captain of Cal crew, I'm like their role model or like a leader. They'll listen to me, because I'm experienced. They're happy to have a guy like me at Cal to guide them especially because it's so challenging. But in the four, I'm trying not to talk too much, not trying to be like a coach.'

CalBears.com: In the World Championships last year you and Jovan rowed for Serbia in two events.

Marjanovic: 'We rowed both in the four and in the coxless four. We basically made a four about a week before the World Championships. We were just concentrating on this upcoming year, and we wanted to have as many races as possible. In the straight four we didn't do as well as we thought we would. But when we saw that we could be in the medals, we concentrated on the coxed four and we got a silver medal in that.'

CalBears.com: Did you have any role models when you started rowing?

Marjanovic: 'That's really important in rowing, because it's a hard sport. Rowing demands a lot of physical and mental work. When I was starting out I had my cousin Ivan (Smiljanic, a former Cal rower and Serbian Olympian), who's four years older than me. He was my role model when I started. He showed me a lot of things. Whenever I had any problems, he would advise me and help me to overcome those initial problems.

'You don't see results the first few years in rowing. You need to work hard. It's hard work that I invested in those early years, and it's paying off here at Cal, winning medals, and at World Championships.'

CalBears.com: Does your cousin, a 2000 Olympic gold and silver medalist and now the varsity men's coach with the Oakland Strokes club, still compete?

Marjanovic: 'He's not rowing anymore, but he's one of the guys I always turn to when I need help.'

CalBears.com: When did you first realize you wanted to row in the Olympics?

Marjanovic: 'The goal of every athlete when they start rowing is not how much money you're going to earn, but going to the Olympics and World Championships; that means a lot to rowers. When I started rowing I always dreamed of the Olympics. Competing in the Olympics in rowing, with much older people - when I'm competing in the coxless four other athletes are in their mid-thirties and older - is a great honor. That's what I was looking forward to when I was younger.'

CalBears.com: When did you start rowing?

Marjanovic: 'I started rowing when I was 12. I started out as coxswain because I was small at first. The first two or three years I was a coxswain, and then I grew up, and started growing and developing. Being a coxswain for a little bit helped me a lot to learn the basics and mechanics of strokes.'

CalBears.com: Is there one thing in particular you're looking forward to if you get to Beijing?

Marjanovic: 'The thing I'm looking forward to is being in the starting block. Being in the starting block before the race, I just don't want to think about it, how proud of myself I'm going to be, because achieving a goal in life, rarely do you get to do that. Being in the starting block as an Olympian is going to be one of those dreams.'

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