I dream of Olympics


Mihaela Kruljac is a multiple national weight lifting champion who also competed at the European and World championships, and she is also our colleague, currently employed in PIK Vinkovci as a farm manager.

At first glance, Mihaela is an ordinary girl, but not too many of her coworkers know that she has achieved noteworthy results in weightlifting. She is a member of the Osijek weightlifting club, a multiple Croatian national champion and a competitor in several European and even World championships.

- How did you get into this somewhat of a rare sport? 
When I was young, I was hyperactive and my parents decided to sign me up for athletics, but after a while it became boring and I’ve switched to judo. I practiced judo for 4 years and a key thing that made me go into weightlifting was a bet with my trainer at that time. If I lose, he said I have to do weightlifting. Maybe I was a bit sceptic at first, but here I am, still weightlifting after 4 years of active training in this sport.
- Tell us a little about the rules in your sport.
The goal is to lift more weight, naturally, but in order to lift weights properly, one must have a specific technique, not just strength.
The lifting takes place on a 4x4m wooden floor that prevents the lifter from slipping. The bar has a marked position so that all competitors always lift from the same position. There are two disciplines, the snatch and the clean and jerk. When performing the snatch you must lift the weight in one fluent motion above your head, while the clean and jerk allows you to place the weights on your chest first and then lift it above your head. Every competitor has three attempts.
In both cases, lifting is successful if the barbell is above the head, legs are stretched and hands are in a calm position. Medals are awarded individually for every category and for the combination.

- Now that you have explained us the rules, can you tell us about your results. Are you happy with them?
I can always do better, that is for sure. I know that I will have to continue to work hard and I expect that results will come. 
I am an absolute national champion in the categories up to 63, 69 and 75 kg. I have improved the national record five times at the last competition.
My best result is 76 kg in snatch and 96 kg in clean and jerk (172 kg combination).
I’ve participated at the European championship twice, I was 9th in Albania and 18th in Israel. I am not happy with the result at the World championship in Kazakhstan, but for me, it was a valuable experience. My wish is to go to the Olympics.

- Considering that weight lifting is not a very popular sport in Croatia, what are your training arrangements?
We don’t have a gym, but a fitness club XXL helped us and have let us use an adequate floor that we can use for training. I recently received a barbell for women as a gift from the Association, because I have trained with a men’s barbell before. But I can’t complain. If you want something, you have to work hard and achieve results. Someone will see and recognize this and then everything will improve.

- What does your regular day look like?
I get up at half past five and work from 7am to 2pm. When I get home, I eat lunch and start getting ready for practice. I practice from 5pm to 8pm every day, except on Sunday. Maybe I should ease off with practicing, but my spirit won’t let me and it keeps pushing me to be better.
- How do you coordinate practice with work?
First of all, I love my work and it is the most important thing for me. I make a living and I could do it for the rest of my life. I am a veterinarian technician and I always loved animals so I enjoy working with them. I’d like to thank my boss for understanding my “hobby” and he is ready to help me out, for example when I need a vacation to go to competitions.
- Do you get tired? Work, then practice…
There are days when nothing seems to work, but that’s why I have a coach. He always says that it is important to give a 100% and he always knows how to get the most out of me.
Do you have any hobbies? Do you have time to go out with friends?
I don’t really have much spare time, definitely not enough for a hobby. I find the time to have coffee with friends, but not to go out. When practicing, it’s simply not possible.
- On the other hand, you traveled a lot.
Yes, I love to travel and I have seen quite a lot. I look forward to the next competition, but I dream of the Olympics.
- Would you change anything if you could?
No, not really. I have a job that I love, I found myself in this sport and for now I am doing alright. I only wish I have started with weight lifting sooner. I hope that after I stop competing, I will continue as a coach and work on promoting this sport.

It is important to point out that, alongside working and practicing hard, this young, cheerful and ambitious girl, is also finishing Agricultural Economics at the Faculty of Agriculture. 

Meanwhile, since this interview was made, Mihaela was declared the best athlete in the city of Osijek and the Osijek and Baranya county. On that occasion she said: “My employer really supports me so that I can coordinate my obligations. After work I drive home, then go to practice and so on, every day except Sunday. I don’t consider myself a professional, I think I am a strong amateur, and it’s the family that suffers the most in the end. My parents and my brother are my biggest support, also my friends, because there is very little spare time.”           

She is also still the best female weight lifter in Croatia. “Of course, new challenges push you further. I still have the motivation and my new goal is to lift 90 kg in snatch and 120 kg in clean and jerk.”, said Mihaela while eagerly waiting for a new European championship in Split this summer.