Thirty is no age to go, but then that’s life, often cruel and unfair. When Bobana Velickovic won the European Championship at Wroclaw, Poland, in February-March, the thought that would have crossed her mind was that the career was on the upswing again. The gold in 10m air pistol was the Serbian’s first since the top spot at the 2016 ISSF World Cup in Munich, her maiden medal on that stage after a silver a year earlier, and with the 2020 season still in its infancy, there was plenty to look forward to.
But fate had other plans in store as little did Bobana know that she had shot in Serbian colours for the last time. With the pandemic starting to impact the global population, Serbia, like other countries, went into a lockdown and ensuing global events were cancelled by the ISSF. Still, there was hope that normalcy would be restored somewhere down. Like every trained athlete, Bobana too banked on hope, save that she had not bargained for the severe illness that would afflict her. Despite being down, she fought on till the end came in Belgrade on Sunday due to complication during the birth of her child.
As per reports, doctors failed to recognize the symptoms of rare syndrome related to birth complication. Bobana was in a coma for the last 10 days from which she never recovered. Her baby is alive and healthy.
Though short, hers was a career that saw many peaks, the seventh spot at the 2016 Rio Games in her second appearance at the Olympics after London 2012 among them. An early starter, Bobana started competing at 10, just a year after taking to the sport. In 20 years, she made more than a mark by bagging four gold, a silver and two bronze. The European Championships was Bobana’s favourite arena and her performance over the years is proof — three gold and two bronze. Though 10m air pistol was Bobana’s forte, she also competed in 25m pistol across the Olympics, World Championships, World Cups and European Championships and European Games.
The Munich World Cup was undoubtedly Bobana’s Mount Everest, but the gold did not come to her before some heart-stopping moments towards the close. She won with 199.7 points but was on tenterhooks after closing with a horrid 8.6. Before the last shot, Bobana led by 1.8 points against Sonia Franquet. The Spaniard needed a 10.5 or more off her final shot to claim gold but shot a 9.8, much to Bobana’s relief. Elated over breaking the glass ceiling, Bobana had said, “This is my best World Cup finish and I am really happy except that last shot… I don’t know what happened there.”
Wroclow, Bobana’s last outing for Serbia, will remain etched too as she was dominant from the outset in the individual competition, and played a major role in her country winning the team title. With two gold, she was among the most successful athletes in the event.
Bobana may have left before fulfilling her potential but she and her achievements will remain etched in the history of European and world shooting.