No room for doubt: Maro Jokovic is one of the superstars of water polo. He is member of the Croatian national team that beat Italy in the last olympic final in London. Furthermore, he won the world championships with the Croatians in Melbourne in 2007, the European Championships in Zagreb in 2010, and he is a three-time winner of the Champions League, but he is still hungry for more!
No room for doubt: Maro Jokovic is one of the superstars of water polo. He is member of the Croatian national team that beat Italy in the last olympic final in London. Furthermore, he won the world championships with the Croatians in Melbourne in 2007, the European Championships in Zagreb in 2010, and he is a three-time winner of the Champions League (twice with Jug and once with Recco), but he is still hungry for more!
You are the title holders in the olympics. Do you think you can win the gold medal also in Rio?
Every team going to Rio has the same expectations...to get as far as possible and, once they get the chance to play for the medal, to win gold. We have had big changes in our team in the last 4 years but I think the team we have now has the strength and knowledge to get very far. We are all hoping for the medal but if we will make it to the semi-final, we will try our best to make it to the end. As you said we are the title holders and we carry a little burden on our back but I think we can cope with it and fight everyone who comes at us.
Who will be the biggest rivals? Do you agree with those who say the Serbs are the best team in the world now?
Looking at the teams participating and such a great number of world class top players playing in a single tournament I think this will be the competition in which anyone could beat anyone. It is true some teams have been more successful than the others in the past years but this summer brings the Olympics that all the teams have been preparing for some time now, and I think we will see a lot of interesting and unpredictable games starting from the first day of the competition.
What do you think of the Hungarian team?
Every Hungarian team I have ever played against in my career was a group of great individuals, great swimmers, and shooters with a very unpredictable style of playing. Every position is extremely dangerous for the goal and if you try to play easy and without being concentrated the whole time, you will get punished. I am sure all 13 players in this team have deserved their place and I think Tibor Benedek had sweet problems choosing the best for Rio.
Are there any Hungarian players that you are friends with?
Since I've been playing against most of the Hungarian team players a lot of times, no matter with the club or the national team, I can say that over the years I have made good contacts with few of them and we hang out also outside the pool. I played with Madaras in Pro Recco for one year and he left a great impression on me as a player but also as a person.
You are only 28, but you have won almost everything: olympic gold, world championship, European Championship, World League, and also the LEN Euro League with Jug and Recco as well. Are you still hungry for more success? Are you still motivated? What are your goals for the future?
As a professional athlete I am looking for the motivation in every game I play and of course, I still have a great appetite for the trophies. Every competition, championship or the game is a new proving and I am trying to be as best as possible regardless of the importance of the match, but also to keep up with my teammates because we all have the same goal - to win. I think I still have a few more years to play on a high level and I am hoping my physical condition in the years to come will allow me to sustain all the hard work and new games that are ahead of me.
What is the strength of the Croatian team?
As a team, we have had ups and downs in the last few years but we always played as friends and, no matter if we've won or lost, we stood next to each other. That makes one team's strength and I am so glad we still have that kind of atmosphere. I don't think most of our rivals could say the same.
This week you are coming to Budapest to the BENU Cup, which is an international tournament. There will be very strong rivals there, can we already expect tough matches, since the Olympics are pretty close?
In the last month or so we played one tournament and had a lot of friendly games with other teams and every encounter was on the edge of the fight. That proves that everyone is very focused and is trying to win their place for the Olympic team that will go to Rio. BENU Cup will be the same and I am not expecting any contact, swim for the ball or shoot for the goal to be easy. There isn't much time left before the start of the Olympics so this will be the last great test for everyone before the show begins.