How the “Fighting Lionesses” won Montenegro’s sole Olympic medal | The Power of One

ORIGINAL SERIES) Montenegro won
the first Olympic medal and it will always be
written into the history of our country and our sports
in golden letters. Many girls and women were
guided and motivated by their example. Milena Raicevic! It’s important to be talented,
but hard work and strong character
are most important. The silver medallists! I think Montenegrin women
have that and in time our success
will be repeated. Representing Montenegro! The consequences
of that medal are very important for us and
for our small country. Bojana Popović! Women are fighting for
their rights more and more and that’s a good thing. We are
going in the right direction. Suzana Lazovic! A consequence of our result was a new-found trust to
women in Montenegro. (THE POWER OF ONE) If there is one
dominant characteristic, that would be the constant
fight, fight for survival, for using the modest
resources we had in the mountains. This fighting spirit,
in a way, demonstrated a desire for self-affirmation and this fight in some ways exists until this very day,
through sport, and there, that moment
of identification – Montenegro and victory.
Victory in wars in the past and victory in sports today. We are still far
from women and men realistically having
an equal status in society. (PODGORICA, MONTENEGRO) We live in hard times
and then, even though in 2008 our water polo
players really did great, they won a gold medal at the
European Championship, and there were medals in individual sports,
especially fighting. But what these girls did, their behaviour on the
field, outside the field, it’s really hard to
describe it, to use the right epithet,
the right metaphor to describe their result. A small country
of 600,000 people has only one professional
female handball club. And we managed to win a medal
past Russia, France, Germany or Denmark,
who have more registered players than all
Montenegro population. Ladies and gentleman,
welcome to the court Montenegro! (UNIVERSITY OF DONJA GORICA,
PODGORICA) I was 10 or 11 maybe.
I was in Nis, my hometown. My sister played handball
before me and of course I wanted to do
everything she did, so she took me to
the field and I stayed. The road to London
was very difficult. But we all felt the
chemistry in the team and we were all aware
that it might happen. Not the medal, but to
play at the Olympics. That was the goal and
the medal was a childhood dream for all of us,
but winning it was completely surreal. Here is the team for Montenegro Number 17, Bojana Popović! Number 26, Susana Lazovic! Everybody knows that
Bojana Popović is a player of world calibre,
a global player. She was a true leader
and that is what had been missing up until then,
in the national team and in Buducnost as well. Milena Raicevic! She’s an incredible fighter
and a leader and I really learned so much.
Considering I am now the captain of
Buducnost and have certain responsibilities,
I am lucky to have had the chance to play with
her and learn from her. Montenegro with three wins,
two defeats and a draw they’ve been inconsistent. I will always remember
that match. Sometimes when I close my eyes,
I think about that fight still. The will depend
heavily on Popović. Score from Suzana Lazovic,
only 20 years old. Popović, just powerful! Huge arm and just sends it
into the top right corner. She’s got the height
and the power to score. 30 minutes was up as Montenegro
looked to go on the break. Claims she didn’t
hear the buzzer. 13-13, an interesting
first half. Start of the second half,
desperately looking for passage through to
the next stage, Gerald, of course a gold
medal match against Norway. Throw up for the second half and it’s Spain
who have possession. Popović sends it forward.
Fast break is on here. Has to be for Montenegro. The first score of
the second half. Nothing is really accidental,
it’s all part of the game. Apologies from
the Spanish winger. Katarina Bulatovic fires an
absolute rocket past Navarro! Still contesting for
a place in the final. They must believe. Another save! Follow-up effort
though is good. Montenegro are back
in front by four! And two minutes for Popović. Now Spain have
a mountain to climb. And that is it! This is a remarkable result! Montenegro showed
great character! We ensured the medal in
the match against Spain, in the semifinal.
We felt it, we taste it. The medal was within our reach. I’m an emotional person
and in that moment I just started
crying… Simply… And that the medal is there. Montenegro can celebrate. What a famous win for them
here. Absolutely amazing. Well done! When you come closer
do the duels and you can do the rest in pairs. To win an Olympic medal
is the crown of every coaching career, of
every athlete’s career. Participating in the Olympic
Games is an incredible achievement and playing
in the final and winning a medal is the most
definitely the crown of every coach’s work
and something we all dream about since the
beginning of our careers. The victory over Spain
and winning the now historic silver medal is
something that is most impressionable from the
Olympic Games themselves. However, the consequences
of that are probably very important for us
and for our small country. There is a direct impact.
If we look at the numbers, there has been a significant
rise in the number of girls who take up sports in
Montenegro since 2012, especially handball. (NATIONAL HANDBALL AWARDS,
PODGORICA) Djurdjina Jaukovic is
one of the younger ones who will
undoubtedly become a leader of her generation
and continue to represent Montenegro
and Montenegrin women in the best way possible. I received the Best Player
Award of Montenegro in the senior category. Montenegro is small
but there are many handball players in
the senior category, so this is an incentive
for all women to be the best they can in their
jobs. I think it’s a positive message to everyone. To be a part of the silver
winning team at the Olympic Games was
incredible, it was an incredible sensation,
one needs to live it to know what it’s like. To win an Olympic medal
is athletic perfection, especially in a country
as small as ours. It had to have
lifted my spirits, mine and of
the other team-mates. I’m going to walk the dog. Considering it was always
men who were in charge, as heads of families, everything revolved
around them. I think we’ve changed
it and now there are so many families who,
after this medal, really hope to have daughters
and name them after one of the lionesses. It’s important to be talented,
but hard work and strong character
are most important. I think Montenegrin
women have that and in time our success
will be repeated. We demonstrated this
through our games and by winning all of these
medals you can see here on display. I am a realist and I
think it’s very difficult to fully equalise
men and women, especially in sports.
Same as in life, they are the head
of the family. We showed that
the only way to do it is by achieving a notable
success and showing we are the strongest
at something. It would be the only
way to equalise, but I think it is
very difficult. (MORACA SPORTS CENTRE,
PODGORICA) Buducnost is the only
one team that plays in the Champions League,
and men have more clubs, they are adequate opponents,
we can practise defence and attack against them,
because they are physically, morphological and
motorically stronger than us, so we can make better
progress when we play against them. There is not enough
competition in their league, so we have to play friendly
matches against them. Ladies and gentlemen, the
European champions, Montenegro! There were definitely
many memorable moments in London, but the final was
really something to remember. We are small yet we
showed that we have strong character,
temperament and the desire Montenegrin women
have to win and participate. But that match was
the most important, it was something that
was all our merit. We knew we had the
medal and we’d made a dream come true. The first time
at the Olympic Games, Montenegro
in a gold medal final. Let’s meet the team
from Montenegro, starting with their captain,
number 14, Maja Savic! For us that was
definitely very stressful, and Norway didn’t have that. It might have had
an impact on the way we played and the way we felt. Those are unforgettable
moments. All of 2012, from them winning
the Champions League, qualifying for
the Olympic Games, the silver medal in London
and then the crown, Belgrade, winning over
Norway, winning the title of the European Champion,
it’s really something that I imagine, I hope
I’m wrong but I imagine that year will never happen
again. That generation had so many trophies,
so much success that it will never happen again. My dream was to
attend the Olympics, to be among 10,000
of the best athletes and I achieved it early,
at 20 years old. It’s someone’s goal for
the entirety of their career. I would describe
our energy and sacrifice as
a great responsibility. We went there as
ambassadors of Montenegro. We all had the same goal
and we went for it together, there were no cliques,
no gossip, that is often present in teams. Of course, the fact that
we were in London and that we brought
a medal, it shows that women can be counted
on in the future of Montenegro. I don’t
mean it just in an athletic sense but in
other jobs as well. In health and education, women
are in very prominent jobs. When it comes to
the military, the police, they still aren’t.
Why aren’t there more women in government? Why not give them
responsibility? We showed that we always go straight to the top.
We have the heart for it and even though men
are considered to be the stronger gender, it doesn’t
have to be that way. A strong woman builds
a strong society. In unity with a strong man,
a self-aware man, a strong and self-aware
woman can create a strong, healthy family
and that is something that is positive for
the society in any case. They are the golden
lionesses and we have high quality women,
women who are great at their jobs. They are in our hearts,
we see them as goddesses, and even if they lose
a match, it doesn’t matter, we move on because
they are our girls, and now we have new
upcoming generations that show great success. We call men
the stronger gender. I don’t see it that way. What’s important is that
I will always highlight that women in
Montenegro are stronger. London and our silver medal… For us, it was gold. They gave us athletic
strength, character, and an example of
how one should represent one’s country. They showed patriotism on the
field. They united a nation. At the time of the London
Olympics I was 15 years old
and I remember I was training with the first
team, with the players who didn’t go to
the Olympic Games. The way they played,
the way the owned the field, it was an example
of how one should fight for their country. When I was watching
that, it never even occurred to me.
One year later I found out that the following
Olympic Games were in Rio de Janeiro,
and I never thought my dream would turn to reality. I was only 19 and going
Olympics was a great experience. I think men are much
more respected in Montenegro than women,
and they always have some sort of
advantage in comparison to women and I hope
this will change. I really hope that in time it
will become more equal. I think that it will change in
time, it still hasn’t changed
the way it should. It is changing,
and more is being invested into female
sports, it’s not just male volleyball and male
handball any more. We need the same
amount invested in them to be invested
in women, but I think in time this inequality
will disappear here in Montenegro. This is a torch
which is especially important to us,
it’s the torch from London, it reminds us
of our first Olympic medal, there is also an
invitation to participate in the 30th Olympic Games. They should be an example
to younger generations and I think that
they have had a great influence on female
sports in Montenegro. We know that we were
a serious national team, we became European
champions the same year. That result is no accident
but a product of thorough, hard work,
which started with Nikola Petrovic,
many years back. An enthusiast,
a serious man, my friend who gave all of himself
to female handball. Many generations gave their
best, Nikola Petrovic was there all those years, as
sports director, as a coach, as someone who was there for these girls
during their careers. He lives for handball,
talks about us with such emotion, has said
so many wonderful things about me.
His support always meant a lot to me, when I played and
when I did other things. – Let’s go to Nikola’s house.
– Let’s go to see Nikola. – See you in Nikola’s house.
– See you there. It’s small details that amount
up to the difference between gold and silver, They showed that with talent, hard work based on values that are deeply built in, it can happen. I don’t think that Montenegro
are by any means content to get silver. They have come here with the
intention to win. That role, something that
everyone recognised, not just sports fans,
but those who recognise value,
they felt it through their actions and
through their example, and I am sure they
did something great, they gave a contribution
to young people. Norway have successfully
defended the title they won in Beijing four
years ago. Bojana Popović will bow out
with an Olympic silver medal. Montenegro have claimed a medal
against all expectations at this championship. The silver medallists,
representing Montenegro… This is the first ever Olympic
medal won by the National Olympic Committee
of Montenegro. There were many moments,
all kinds of moments, and every match
is a story in itself. We managed to
achieve the end goal, we took the medal.
Returning to Montenegro, the atmosphere we only
found out about later, what it was like in Podgorica
and all of Montenegro. Bojana Popović! Those scenes…
When we were going back from the airport, when
I saw a mother with a baby at 3am, in that street,
near the airport, where kids and other things are. Even today, when I remember
that, I can’t, I start crying. I always mention that
scene, that is how I remember the
welcome, a mother is screaming, with a baby
in her hands, just wants to give us a present. You touched it then and
no-one can buy that. That is a privilege only
people who reach the top of an athletic career
the way you did can live. Besides being talented,
you need to work. If you don’t unite those
things, you’re in trouble. Sport is the only thing
that can do that. What you said, to unite
people to think the same way for one day at least. The strongest moment
comes from what happened after we came back, the feeling that we had done
something great for a small baby but also
for the oldest grandmother,
made them feel fulfilled.
That is what got me. I’m not the one to
remember details, but that was the
biggest accomplishment of my career. In life, just like in sport,
there is a distance called time. Just watching
someone you love, someone you’ve spent
precious time with, and seeing that the time
hasn’t been in vain but it’s gained
the highest value, that makes you very proud. What makes me
really proud is that, apart from winning the medal, they raised other standards,
they became good people. Not only that, they
are role models, still, the standard they’ve
set is something to be proud of and… It’s something so emotional. Young girls now have
amazing role models who can motivate
them to become really accomplished
in this society. The handball players
showed that they are real golden lionesses who
know how to fight and they showed that the
way they did it in sport, anyone can do it
in any area of life. The medal definitely
changed a lot when it comes to women and
the position of women in Montenegro. Men always had the upper hand, whether they get upset
at me saying it or not, it is true, it was always
men before women. I think we changed that. A consequence of our result was a new-found trust to
women in Montenegro. Women are fighting for
their rights more and more and that’s a good thing. We are going
in the right direction.

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