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Marija BogavacJanuary 17, 2024 at 12:03 PM6 min read

Two Years Ago I Was on My Deathbed — Now I'm Training For The Olympics

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Source: Marija Bogavac

 

Two years ago, I was in [a] Cincinnati hospital fighting for my life.

 

After three knee surgeries (ACL), I earned a knee infection that almost cost me my leg and, after becoming allergic to the first dose of antibiotics, my life. All alone in a different country, emotions were high, pain was real, and [I had] little hope that one day I would live my dream. With [the] help of doctors, friends and family I decided to fight back and fulfill my dream of becoming an Olympian. After one month of IVs and hundreds of antibiotics that weakened my immune system and body, I started my long journey of walking again, running again, and soon-to-be throwing javelin again. Everyone said I was crazy, that I needed to give up and focus on something else, that javelin was not for me anymore. I almost believed them, because mentally I hit rock bottom.

 

 

I believe that everything happens in life for a reason, and we should be grateful for both good and bad things, because that is life. It took me a long time to process everything, what I wanted from life, how to achieve my goals and in which direction I should pursue my next goals. As I worked hard to come back to [a] fully functional self again, [I] never skipped rehab day, [I] worked extra hard just so I could feel like myself again, [and] I realized that wasn’t enough — not for me at least. That was my comeback from [my] fifth surgery, and I said, "If I give up now I will always regret that I didn’t give 110% of myself," and [that] ultimately led me to believe that I am strong and powerful enough to overcome any fears and doubts.

 

Sometimes we tend to underestimate ourselves, but as a resilient female athletes, [and] having someone to push you and believe in you like my family did for me, anything is possible.

 

 

I was born and raised in the small town Mojkovac, [in the] north of Montenegro where I graduated from high school and found my true love, javelin. That journey sent me to live in the U.S. for almost 10 years, [where I] graduated from three universities and I earned myself one bachelor and two master’s degrees, plus countless knowledge, friends and family. 

 

As for the love for javelin, same as the love for my family and my country, I found my way back home after long 10 years and hope of becoming an Olympian.

 

Now I am training as a professional athlete, but little has changed in terms of love for the javelin and passion for sports. I am honored to be coached by Kari Ihalainen from Finland and I will be continuing my career as part of his team. I said, "If I am going to come back to throw javelin professionally, I will do it the right way and with the best people around." So, after [a] long two and a half years of rehab, I packed my bags and flew to the north of Finland, where I embarked on a new journey as a professional javelin thrower. In small town of Kuortane, [a] world renowned javelin community, I met one of the best javelin coaches in the world, [now] my coach Kari Ihalainen.

 

pic14Source: Marija Bogavac

At my arrival in the Kuortane Olympic Training Center, I was immediately amazed by the training conditions and the fact that everything revolved around the javelin. Finnish people love javelin, [and] the culture and the history behind it. I had the honor to be one of the two athletes that served as demo athletes for the World Javelin Conference that was held in Kuortane. The best coaches and athletes watched my technique, where I learned and absorbed all the knowledge that was presented in the two-day-long seminar.

 

pic9Source: Marija Bogavac

The words of encouragement, support and love I received only reinforced my desire to keep going on my journey to throw over 60m. I finally understood the power of support. And so, Coach and I started our journey together and our three-month long training camp.

 

I was mentally prepared for the training camp, but my body did not understand the movements and patterns that my coach was teaching me, because I had never done them before. We changed my technique, my way of thinking — pretty much the way I was before when it came to javelin. Body and mind were in a conflict most of the time, but Coach believed that I just needed some time and that everything would be fine. Every day I could barely walk, [my] muscles were sore, but [my] heart was happy and content. I was learning and that is what I was there for. Week by week, [my] body was getting stronger and new personal bests were performed. [Some]one would say, “But that is perfect, based on results you will throw 60m soon."

 

As we know by now, in order to achieve great things, you must suffer first. Each one of our paths is different and hard, and we must embrace the fact that playing sports on such a high level always comes at the cost and risk.

 

Having my fair share of injuries and struggles, I decided that every training session wouldpic2 be fulfilled with joy and happiness, enjoying myself, being happy and content that I am able to jump, run and throw again, because I know very well that might be taken away any second. Enjoy what you do, because life is too short to not be happy.

[My] first training camp was filled with ups and downs, pain and soreness, failure and success but most importantly, it was filled with love and support for my sport and for people that believed in me. For the first time in my life we did [a] neck jerk exercise at 70kg, which was my personal best at the time. It was Wednesday early morning at 10am, and I was really tired. I showed up, warmed up, did everything well until that weight, and at the moment of lifting the weight I stretched my back and heard a crack in my spine — with 70kg over my head. I could not move; I thought I was paralyzed. Step by step, I was home for 10 days taking pain killers every day and resting. (Image source: Marija Bogavac)

 

Even during that moment I was in such a tremendous pain, where I could barely move, all I was thinking about was the next training. The 10 days I spent in bed, I was visualizing my next training session. After the pain was gone, I came back to the gym and did the same exercises, but now, easily over 75kg. That is “The power of will”.

 

And the rest of our training camp went smoothly, with each training we created a vision of where we wanted to head for this season and how to achieve the Olympic standard for this year. As I have few weeks in Montenegro, I will be joining my coach and my Japanese colleague in New Zealand for the next training camp, and open our season in the beginning of March in New Zealand.

 

pic6Source: Marija Bogavac

I will end my first blog here with one of my favorite quotes from Muhammad Ali: “It is the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” — Muhammad Ali

Thank you.

 


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Marija Bogavac

Marija Bogavac is a 2-time National Champion javelin thrower from Montenegro. She is training for her first Olympic appearance at the 2024 Games in Paris. Follow her journey on Instagram @marija__bogavac.

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