Popovic returns to play in RioArticle
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NEWS REPORT: Four years after retiring, Bojana Popovic is returning to action for Montenegro at the Olympics in August

Popovic returns to play in Rio

The queen is back. At least for one competition and not just any competition.

Bojana Popovic, considered by many to be the best female handball player of the past two decades, will play at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The six-time Women's EHF Champions League winner from 2004 to 2012, is officially on the Montenegro team list named by Dragan Adzic.

Popovic announced last month that she would return to action should she prove her fitness and form, having played no competitive handball since her retirement in 2012 after winning Olympic silver with Montenegro.

“The Olympic Games are special. London made a strong impression on me and at the time I said that only the Olympic Games can motivate me to relive something big,” Bojana Popovic said.

“There was no idea in my head to play again. In December and January I was asked to start training, but I couldn’t due my obligation as a mother.

“In April and May the pressures were stronger, in particular from the players, and with my weight and physical condition I realised that it’s not impossible.

“I decided to come back, I gave myself a chance and I certainly would have regretted it if I gave up.

“I spoke with coach Dragan Adzic and president Predrag Boskovic, who also told me to try.”

Following her retirement, Bojana had two children, a daughter (in December 2013) and son (April 2015) and has maintained her fitness throughout the four year break.

“Physically I am doing well, my speed will be ok and my body is dealing with the rhythm of the game. I am still doing the things I used to.

“I am sure that I will not have problems with muscles, but no one expects me to play 60 minutes,” Popovic continued.

Montenegro will be hoping to go one step further than 2012 and get their hands on gold in Rio, but the 36-year-old is realistic about her team’s chances.

“It's hard to talk about gold, because in Rio, everyone will play for the gold medal.

“There is no opponent against whom you can say that you certainly beat. I can wish for gold, I can dream of it, but the quarter-final is the most important match.

“If we join the fight for a medal, it will be a success. If we repeat what we did in London, it would be a huge success.”

Adzic: Bojana deserved a place

Montenegro coach Dragan Adzic explained that the return of Popovic will mean a lot for the team, despite her absence for the last four years.

“The best 15 Montenegrin players will travel to the Olympics and Bojana Popovic is absolutely not taking the place of any other player. Bojana, as well as every other player chosen with their experience and knowledge, deserves to defend the colours of Montenegro in Rio.

“She’s in full training for more than two months, every day she’s working with the team and her form is getting better. I believe she will give us a real contribution on the court and generally her presence will help us all to be better,” Adzic concluded.

Radicevic: She will mean a lot to us

Her teammates are also delighted with the news, as Jovanka Radicevic and right back Katarina Bulatovic explained:

“Earlier, when I spoke to Bojana, she told to me that there is a possibility that she will try to return for the Olympic Games. Do you know what I said to her?  "Please, please, do it." A thousand times I said "please".

“Bojana is a great name, she will mean a lot to us,” right wing Jovanka Radicevic said.

“Bojana’s comeback is a big plus, the best news. I think I don’t need to talk about how she passes the ball, what she can create on court.

“I am glad she will be with us. I believe that she will be ready; she has an unbelievable will and desire to play. I hope that her body will hold after a long break.

“Certainly she can do a lot to help us, it's different when she's with us on the court,” right back Katarina Bulatovic added.

TEXT: Sasa Joncic / cor