Split, July 31, 2019 - Ivo Lipanović, the oldest Croatian Olympian and the last Croatian athlete who participated at the 1948 Olympics, passed away at the age of 91 on Tuesday (July 30th) in Split. Ivo Lipanović was born in Orebić at the Pelješac peninsula on August 18, 1928. He was a participant of the first Olympic Games held after the World War II, in London in 1948. For the HVK monograph (Croatian rowing club) Gusar, by the author Herca Ganza Čaljukušić, Lipanović spoke about his beginnings in Gusar.


"As soon as the bombs started falling down, we the craftsmen were rounded up in 194 and every few months we were sent to repair the ruined and important buildings" - recalled šjor (mister) Ivo, a carpenter by profession, whose  “golden hands” were quickly noticed in two directions."


First, we patched up the Banovina building, and then they brought us to the Dom Gusara (House of Pirates) at Matejuška. During the hard work I was approached by the late Luka Marasović saying: Kid, you could come to row for me. To me, his words were an order. I was 17 years old and used to listening to the elders. So, in parallel with the carpenter's plane, I started holding a paddle in my hands”. In the Gusar juniors he was rowing with a year younger Duje Bonačić. Right then, during that first year- 1945 with Gusar, they went to the first Fiskulturni Slet in Zagreb, by a truck without tarpaulin, where they were rowing on the Sava river. They were returning to Split over the city of Rijeka by a trabakul (sailing coaster), and their journey back lasted two days and one night, but such were the times... 


During that first post war-years, Gusari were trained by the German coach Bormann. He came to Split to earn some food and send it to Germany, which was then leveled to the ground. At that time, the club Gusar had a strong coxless four that consisted of: Klement Alujević, Mate Mojtić Matacin, Petar Ozretić and Zdeslav Brajević. Until that moment,  Lipanovic was paddling in coxless pair with Miško Rosenberg. Then, on the eve of the Olympic Games, Lipanovic was transferred to coxless four instead of Brajević. I guess he didn't technically fit them. This crew, consisting of: Mojtić, Ozretić, Alujević and Lipanović, was composed of representatives of three Gusar generations. After the summer and autumn training in the port and winter training in Spinut, won at the selection races in Zagreb and Belgrade during 1948 and at the international regattas in Zagreb and Budapest and thus acquired the right to perform at the Olympic Games in London. The pre-Olympic trainings  were led by the aforementioned German Bormann, who was also the rowing Head Coach. "Before going to the Olympics", recalled Ivo Lipanović, "we trained twice a day – at the sea and in the “gym”. Well, what a gym it was. The coach would fill dva biduna (two buckets) with water and then he would measure how much time it would take us to go up and down the stairs with those two buckets. On the eve of our departure to London, we got gray suits, sweatpants, a new T-shirt, a red sweater and a performance uniform. Before the trip, Vladimir Dedijer gave us a moral-political lecture. He didn't say much, just looked us up and down- checked us to see whether there are any waverers among us– gave us a long look.  Then the four of us took the train to Zagreb together with Dalibor Paraić, who was a member of the rowing organization in London. From Zagreb we traveled two days and one night to Calais. Everything was still demolished... "


Šjor Ivo remembered the trip through London that looked spooky. They were housed in Henley, around thirty kilometres from London, in one of the female students' boarding schools. Besides rowing, he didn't see anything. He remembered the parade, when they got a great applause. These were Ivo Lipanović’s impressions from the first post-war Olympic Games, where the rowers of Gusar did not achieve a significant success.


Lipanović was paddling until 1956. He was State Champion in 1950 and in 1951. As a carpenter, he worked for Gusar’s eights according to the blueprints, and he managed to make himself a "boat to throw a tuna". The sea was always his second home.


The death of Ivo Lipanović, leaving of the last Croatian Olympian witness of one time, represents not only a trip into the history of a sports and rowing notable and above all, a legend, but also the end of one period of time of the Croatian Olympic movement, in short – farewell to the last Croatian athlete-participant of the London Olympics 1948.  


Ivo Lipanović's last farewell will be on Friday, August 2nd, 2019 at 6 p.m. at the Lovrinac cemetery in Split.


With the death of Ivo Lipanović, the swimmer of Split’s club Mornar Nikola Trojanović, born on September 29, 1928 in Dubrovnik, participant of the Helsinki Olympics 1952, became the oldest Croatian participant at the Olympic Games. 


The oldest living Croatian golden Olympian, the rower of Split’s club Gusar Duje Bonačić participated at the Helsinki Olympics as well. He climbed to the winning pedestal as member of the coxless four and he was born on April 10, 1929 in Split. (COC/JG)