Zagreb, October 19, 2018 – The Croats are particularly fond of Summer Olympics, held in Ciudad de Mexico in 1968, because they brought us two Olympic medals won by the swimmer Đurđica Bjedov, the popular Đuke. The first was the most shiny one– gold medal, won on October 19, 1968. So, on this date, exactly fifty years ago, we have won the first Croatian single Olympic gold.
Đurđica Bjedov was born in Split on April 5, 1947. She started her swimming career in Split's POŠK, where she stayed until 1962, then she swam for the Swimming Club Mornar from 1962 to 1971, while she was the representative of Yugoslavia from 1964 to 1971. "Đuka nacionale" astonished the world in 1968, and thrilled numerous sports hearts. She caused an unprecedented wave of enthusiasm within these boundaries and launched a true sports festivity of celebration and pride.
Gold and silver. First in 100 m Breaststroke in the time of 1.15.8 and second in 200 m Breaststroke in the time of 2.46, 4 in a competition that did not promise - at first sight - "anything good“. The image that people in these areas keep in their hearts is the moment of conquering gold medal in 100 meters. Arriving at the finish, turning towards the reporter's stands, waved aside with her hand answering to the enthusiasm of Mladen Delić: "Who? Me? No, I did not win... “
- When I think about it", says Đurđica, "nothing was strange or bizarre in that gesture. I simply reacted spontaneously, as humans do, not believing that I succeeded... I've always been a big dreamer, I loved to live in my world of imagination and hope. And there was a picture of a small girl climbing on a pedestal. I guess it’s normal for athletes? The Olympic medal is the most valuable thing that can happen in a career...
On one hand, there was not much argument that Đurđica would come back from Mexico adorned with a medal, on the other hand, she was secretly hoping for the winners’ pedestal. What was that in her that built this happy bridge of desires, hopes and possibilities?
- Great love for swimming and the competition. The struggle I always felt towards myself, which was crucial in all of my sports thoughts. I wanted so much to swim, to compete with the better ones. That filled me with the challenge, inspired me. I am like that. When I saw a monkey skating, I bought skates myself and rushed onto the ice. When I saw kids climb to the top of the mountain, I had to be there. Never give up, fight till the end. That's what my father taught me, and it became a part of me- says Đurđica Bjedov.
It was the honest confession of Đurđica Bjedov, one of the greatest Croatian athletes in the history, Split native who fascinated the world in 1968. That year she was presented the City of Split Award and she was named the Best Athlete in Yugoslavia, Croatia and Dalmatia, in the election of several editorial offices and federations. The reception at the Split’s waterfront was more than fantastic. Hundreds of thousands of people in the "most sporty city in the world" came to share joy with their Đuke, to express the emotions that only this city can show. The Mexican sports heroine Đurđica Bjedov amazed the world these days, creating a surprise that nobody was hoping for. For the American swimmers Đuka was a phenomenon that crashed the rules because there was no scientific cover for such a surprise from the open pool of Mornar and Split’s Poljud.
She represented Yugoslavia 46 times. She participated at the European Championships in 1966 in Utrecht and in 1970 in Barcelona. She was Yugoslavia's Champion 35 times and the state recorder 19 times. In 1987, she was introduced to the Swimming Hall of Fame in Florida in the USA, and since 2007 she is a member of the Split Sport Hall of Fame. In 2003, she was presented the Medal of the City of Split. In 2009, she was presented the trophy of the Split Association Fabjan Kaliterna and in 2013 the State Award for Sport Franjo Bučar, and in 2015 she was presented the same Award for Lifetime Achievement. (COC/JG)