For the first time in its short history, the women’s team of Montenegro will play at the Olympic games. The team of Dragan Adžić finished first at the Olympic qualifications tournament in Lyon, winning all three games.
Montenegro defeated Japan (30:24), Romania (34:23), and hosts France (22:20) to gain a place in Pot 1 for the draw on Wednesday.
Goalkeeper Sonja Barjaktarović was one of the best players in the Montenegrin team and in this interview with ehf-euro.com she talks about the tournament in Lyon, the upcoming Olympic Games in London, and the final rounds for the EHF EURO 2012 qualifications.
ehf-euro.com: What were your feelings after your team got the visa for the Olympic games in London?
Sonja Barjaktarović: My feelings were phenomenal! I don’t think many of us are aware of the success we’ve just achieved. Our dream, and the dream of many generations, has become a reality.
ehf-euro.com: After winning the EHF Women’s Champions League inevitably there has been a physical and emotional discharge from the Budućnost players. Given all that and the short time between EHF Women’s Champions League final and the Olympic qualifying tournament, did you expect such good games in Lyon and all three wins?
Sonja Barjaktarović: I agree that there has been a great physical and psychological discharge. We had a long and arduous season, but, thank God, a successful one, which further motivated us to continue to reach the next goal. Great desire to get to the Olympics overcame our tiredness and so we managed to get the desired result.
ehf-euro.com: In the last game against France, hosts of the Olympic qualifying tournament, you played without Bojana Popović, Maja Savić and Ana Đokić. Coach Adžić decided to rest them, since you’d already got the visa for London, while Katarina Bulatović didn’t play in the last 20 minutes. Given also the fact that Marija Jovanović and Majda Mehmedović missed the tournament due to injuries, did you believe that you could defeat the silver medalists from the last World Championships in Brazil, on their home ground?
Sonja Barjaktarović: After the victory against Japan and Romania, in the first two games, when we secured a place in London, we had the space and the chance to give every player some game time so they could show their best. I think that helped us to victory.
ehf-euro.com: In the three matches in Lyon you made 40 saves, and had some very good games. Bearing in mind that you didn’t have much opportunity to play this season in EHF Women’s Champions League, because of the great form of Clara Woltering, did you expect to play so well?
Sonja Barjaktarović: Although I had little playing time in the EHF Women’s Champions League, I practiced diligently and patiently, and waited for my chance. At the end, my work and patience paid off.
ehf-euro.com: The draw for the Olympic Handball Tournament will take place in London (Crystal Palace) on Wednesday 30 May 2012. If you could choose, which teams you would like to be in the same group with?
Sonja Barjaktarović: Any team qualified for the Olympics is good, so we don’t want to think about who might be our rivals in the group. The important thing now is to rest well and recharge our batteries for the challenges ahead.
ehf-euro.com: What can we expect from Montenegro in London? After the games Montenegro and Budućnost played in the last several months, many handball experts think your team is among the favorites for a medal in London, what do you think?
Sonja Barjaktarović: I would not comment on that. We want to go step by step, as before, to play handball and enjoy doing that.
ehf-euro.com: After disappointing performances at the World Championships in Brazil (10th place), Budućnost and the national team of Montenegro played practically flawlessly. What has changed after Brazil?
Sonja Barjaktarović: Sometimes when you lose a game, you actually get a lot of good from it. I think we learned a lot from Brazil. I'm glad we managed, as a team, to overcome all that and get back on track.
ehf-euro.com: The season is not over yet. Ahead of you are Rounds 5 and 6 of EHF EURO 2012 qualification against Great Britain (30 May in Crystal Palace) and Poland (3 June in Podgorica). With three victories in four previous games, you are almost qualified for the next EHF EURO. What do you expect in the last two matches, since you are strong favourites in both?
Sonja Barjaktarović: Why not continue the victorious series and keep the winning spirit? Of course I expect to win both times.