Photo: Paul ZimmerDamir Dzumhur (BIH)
If you’re in any doubt of the power of an event like the Youth Olympic Games and its ability to inspire, just ask Damir Dzumhur.
The 22-year-old Sarajevo native won a bronze medal in the boys’ singles event at the inaugural Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010 – and still keeps the medal close by to spur him on each day.
“It’s on the wall of my room,” reveals Dzumhur. “When I wake up every morning I can see it from the bed and it gives me just another motivation to make a good result.
“[Winning the medal] meant a lot to me, especially because I’m the first guy to win an Olympic medal in Bosnia/Herzegovina,” he continued. “I was really proud of myself that I did it, and proud that I’m Bosnian.”
Inspired by the glint of bronze on his bedroom wall, 22-year-old Dzumhur, who has been supported by the Grand Slam Development Fund, has seen his tennis career go from strength to strength since taking part in Singapore.
Earlier this year he became the first player from Bosnia/Herzegovina to contest the men’s singles at a Grand Slam event at the Australian Open, where he reached the third round as a qualifier before falling to Tomas Berdych. He followed up by qualifying for Roland Garros and, aided by three title wins at Challenger level this year, has improved his ranking to a career-high No. 105 this week.
Those results have led him to target a place in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, having enjoyed all that the Youth Olympics had to offer in Singapore in 2010.
“It was a really good experience,” Dzumhur said of the Youth Olympics. “2010 was a really good year for me. I was No. 3 in the world in juniors, I had some good results – and one of the best was the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore where I won the bronze medal.
“That was a really good experience because I may one day play the senior Olympic Games - I hope I can [achieve] the same result. But the Youth Olympic Games was the biggest event with a lot of people from all different countries. It was a pleasure for me to play there.”
Dzumhur made sure to take in all there was to offer at Singapore 2010 and ensured that his medal-winning Olympic experience wasn’t limited to the tennis courts.
“We were based in the Olympic Village, talking with people from all round the world,” he remembers. “I love football, so I watched the football and I had some guys from my team doing some Judo so I was there too.
“We had a lot of fun. It goes so quick. Singapore is really beautiful – so we went two days in a row to the city after the tournament had finished. We had a football match one day too so there’s a lot of things you can do, especially with the guys from your national team. It’s not just about the sport, it’s also about friendship so I really liked it.”
Offering his tip for the players that are set to take part in the upcoming Youth Olympic Games on 17-24 August, Dzumhur advised that all those involved relish every moment.
“I’ll just offer them that they really have to enjoy all that there is there,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are first or last, you really have to enjoy your time there. I really enjoyed it. When you are so relaxed you play your best and the results will come.”