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15 January 2021 | in Summer FISU World University Games

Spotlight: Remembering the Belgrade 2009 Summer Universiade

Fifty years after holding the first Universiade in Torino, FISU celebrated its golden jubilee with the 25th Summer Universiade in Belgrade, Serbia.

 

2009 Belgrade mascotThe local organisers gave the FISU family a great deal to be happy about, hosting a superb Universiade that was highlighted by friendly and energetic volunteers and incredible athletic talent.

 

It was no easy undertaking for the hosts, who bore the full force of the financial crisis and therefore had to reduce their ambitions for the Universiade. As a result, optional sports were eliminated, budgets were cut, and the morale of all concerned took a beating.

 

But any doubts that cropped up during the preparation phase were quickly dispelled upon entering the Athletes’ Village, which was purpose-built for the Games and provided the perfect atmosphere for the athletes of the world to come together in friendship and brotherhood.

 

 

 

 

“When you walk in here, you feel the vibes,” said Jackson Roach, coach of the American swimming team. “We were all impressed with the effectiveness and the kindness of the volunteers. Without them, Games of this magnitude could simply not take place.”

 

anna bessonova 3Any discussion of the Belgrade Universiade would be incomplete without the mention of Ukrainian rhythmic gymnast Anna Bessonova. While the then 24-year-old “only” won four silver medals at these Games – a substandard performance by her lofty standards – the second-place finishes would be enough to make her the most decorated individual athlete in Universiade history. Bessonova’s four trips to the Universiade resulted in a world-beating 10 golds (5 in 2007, 4 in 2005, 1 in 2003), 8 silvers (4 in 2009, 4 in 2003), and one bronze (2005).

 

“I like the Universiade, it's like the Olympics, but much more relaxed,” the five-time world champion told FISU in 2009. “I didn't think about (setting the medals record). It’s very nice having this record. But I didn't come here for the medals in the first place but to present my new program to the audience and the judges and hope they like it. And if the medals are the result of that it [is] another success.”

 

The usual suspects Russia and China led the way in the medal count, but the home team made its presence felt as well, finishing with 19 medals. That included the coveted gold medal in men’s basketball, won at the expense of the Russians in front of a vocal crowd of 20,000 people. Other Serbian gold went to Aleksander Slovic (men’s tennis), the Serbian men’s tennis team, Marina Muncan (women’s 1,500m), and Ivana Spanovic (long jump).

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