Milivoj Veličkovič Perat and Tatjana Dolenc Veličkovič were the oldest married couple who competed at Bled Swimming Challenge 2018. They are 82 and 79 years old. They worked as doctors but are retired now. They still do sports every day and live their lives actively. In the following interview, you are going to see that they set an inspiring example to all of us. Are you interested in their everyday routine? Then read the article which was made with our interviewees especially for bled-swimming.com.
You were the oldest married couple at Bled Swimming Challenge 2018. In generally, you are very connected to swimming. Can you introduce yourself a little bit and tell the readers of our website who you are.
Milivoj: First, I would like to thank you for your invitation. We are both doctors. She is an orthopaedist and I am a neurologist. The duty of us doctors is to lead a healthy lifestyle. We have to take care of our own health and we have to set an example to our patients and other people. 10th May is the international day of movement (doing sports). Movement represents the basis of our lives. Walking and running are the basic movements. Swimming is also genetic. All newborns know how to swim. This ability dies down soon after birth. Later in life, we have to learn how to swim again. The same happens with walking and running. The genetic basis loses itself and that is the main reason why so many people walk and run wrongly. For all types of movement people need a professional instructor, coach. In Slovenia, there are many private coaches now and this is very useful.
But, I also think that the physical movement is not enough. If you want to stay healthy, you have to be active mentally, too. This can be a big problem, especially for old people. When they are old, they become less flexible and consequently, their mental activity starts to decline. It can also go the other way round. Watching TV becomes the biggest problem. That is why old people should organize their lives. With organisation comes motivation. They can organise their lives individually or in a group.
Me and my wife work out every day. We have different coaches. We visit spinning classes, we swim, my wife goes to the gym, etc. I also play basketball and water polo. Movement keeps us physically and mentally active. It prevents us from stiffening.
We are very thankful to the organisers of Bled Swimming Challenge. This competition gives us a motivation to prepare ourselves. It gives us an opportunity to visit organised workouts lead by the Bled Swimming Challenge organisation team. We will also meet our old friends at the event and compete with them. You can also get new friends and acquaintances at such events. But you have to know something. The race is not easy. You have to swim 1250 metres. You have to be well prepared.
Tatjana: Movement is life and life is movement. Young people take this for granted, old people don't. If we move, we feel. We sense ourselves and the world around us. Through movement, we develop our personality and we cooperate with the environment. Movement represents a type of socializing. As I said before… this is very logical to young people, but less logical to old ones. Working obligations and oldness restrict people's physical capabilities and, consequently, also their capabilities to socialize, sense, feel and cooperate. An old person has to take care of their abilities to move consciously. With this action, one can save their own self, their abilities to feel themself and their chances for communication. Socialization is essential and without movement, there isn't any socialization . If you socialize, you also have a motivation to move. When you are in a group which is led by a personal trainer, you want to assert yourself. You want to prove that you are capable. If I move, I am.
So… You are talking about socializing. You two have been married for more than 50 years.
How does sport influence your relationship? Which role does it play in your socializing? Is there any competition between you two?
Milivoj: This is a wonderful question. If there wasn't for any sport, we wouldn't have met each other. We met each other 60 years ago when we were skiing. From then on, sport has been the basis of our lives. You have to move. If you aren't physically and mentally active, you decay. You can also get some old-age illnesses, like depression or you get suicidal. That is why movement is so important.
Tatjana: Doing sports means socializing. This is motivation. What one of us does, does also the other. one We encourage one another.
Swimming, specifically, is the sport which plays the most important role in your lives. Your whole family is enthusiastic about swimming because of you two. Your descendants are all very connected to this sport. Why swimming? How did you manage to motivate your family to do this sport? Your descendants competed at the Olympic Games…
Milivoj: This is a very good question… But before I answer… There has to be a boundary between competitive and recreational sport. A big problem is, for example, when parents force their children to do a certain sport- Sometimes this is useful, but sometimes it can also be harmful. It is especially harmful when parents want to heal their complexes. Parents have to make children enthusiastic about a sport, because then children feel a need to do it.
Tatjana: Why swimming? When you take up a new sport, you have to get an encouragement from the environment. Milivoj started with swimming. He had a group of schoolmates who all swam for Triglav Swimming Club and Triglav Water Polo Club. These two clubs were very important to children, then. For example, children didn't go on vacations, but there they could hang out when they had their summer holidays. Miko joined in the competitive part, not the recreational one. He competed as a swimmer and a water polo player. This is an experience and a pattern that has an influence on the whole family. It isn't unusual that the children of the world class competitors are influenced by their parents. They are also motivated to take up the same sport. For example… Our children were swimmers, our grandchildren are also swimmers and I hope our great grandchildren will also be swimmers. I agree with Miko that forcing children to do a certain sport is very harmful. There has to be a positive motivation. A child has to live their own self.
Milivoj: Here, I would like to emphasize again that recreational sport has to be a little competitive, too. You have to compare yourself with others to find out, how much progress you have made and where you belong in a competitive group. So, as long as the recreational part is concerned, the 'competitive spirit' is also important. You also have to announce your participation at a race. Even if you do sports as recreation, the result is important. It, actually, matters to me if somebody is faster. I am always careful about the fact who overtakes me.
Tatjana, what do you think about the competition in sport? When did you start to swim?
Tatjana: I never competed in swimming. I always liked it and I started to swim very early. I was 5 years old. After WW2, I came from Belgrade to Železniki. My grandparents lived there, and my aunt taught me how to swim in the old river Sora. She was a teacher and she enjoyed teaching children how to swim. When I was at primary school in Ljubljana, Ilirija Swimming Club invited me to swim for them. We swam in an old Bloudek's swimming pool. I was very happy to join them. I swam there for a month. Then, I had a terrible angina and my mother didn't allow me to swim anymore. I started to swim again when I was old. I actually started to realise that I was old. The reason, why I decided for swimming was, that water is a completely different medium. Different physical laws are important in it. It is very good for people to move in water. You become more flexible and your breathing is encouraged. Water gives you a good feeling about yourself. The reason is bigger resistance. Running and walking take place in air and the physical laws there are completely different. You also have to deal with gravitation. Breathing is also different, you build your muscles, coordination and balance. These two media (water and air) are very important for old people.
What is the easiest way to motivate old people to come to the swimming pool? Old people usually have their daily routines and it is very hard to convince them to do something else.
Tatjana: Those old people, who weren't swimmers when they were young, aren't adjusted to water and they can't breathe. This is a big problem, because, consequently, they are afraid of water. First, they can adjust to water by walking in it. They get a feeling that water lifts them. They learn how to breathe properly. Breathing becomes automatized and then swimming becomes a pleasure.
Milivoj, when did you start to swim?
Milivoj: I started to swim very early in my life. In 1944, I had a terrible experience with swimming because I almost drowned. Fortunately, I was saved. In 1947, again, I was drowning and, again, I was saved. I had luck. Nowadays, in Slovenia, we have a law that all children have to know how to swim by the end of primary school. The society takes care of children and I find this very good. Therefore, the possibilities for drowning are reduced. In the past, there were at least three people each year who drowned at the swimming pool in Kranj. Lately, there hasn't been any.
I started to swim actively in 1951. Because I wanted to be in a group, I also played water polo. Group activities motivate me. You were asking about old people… Old people have to be motivated. A fine solution for them are organised activities like swimming or group activities. Here in Kranj, we are very pleased to have organised trainings led by my trainer Juš Veličković. These trainings give old people a possibility to do sports. A big problem, which occurs among people, is also their intelligence. Intelligent people feel a need to do sports, to move. People who are less intelligent watch TV most of their time and they don't have any need to be sporty. Society has to change these habits!
Milivoj, you are talking about the society and how the lifestyle has been changing lately. In connection with this fact, I would like to know how have the conditions and the role of swimming changed since you've been in touch with it?
Milivoj: People often criticise the old system, but in my opinion, the old system was good. It gave good conditions for swimming, summer and winter swimming pools. Then, swimming pools were for free and everybody could swim, also the children from poor families. The system is now changed and you have to pay if you want to swim in a swimming pool. Today's society shoud co-finance the recreation!
Tatjana: All types of movement (swimming, running or hiking) are very connected to the level of education. In my collection I have a photo from 1926. In it, there are Viennese students who were born in Železniki. Every summer they hung out by the river Sora, they swam and competed. Education is very important, as long as doing sports is concerned. These students also liked to go hiking and mountain climbing. Nowadays, the possibilities for doing sports are better. In the past, people could swim only in lakes and rivers. Bled, for example, was a traditional destination where people hung out and swam. The habit of learning how to swim started in England. To know how to swim is very important for survival. Drowning can happen very quickly. Bled Swimming Challenge presents a big challenge to those who are going to compete with others. To me, it is a challenge to compete with myself and to endure the distance. Swimming in open waters in completely different from swimming in a swimming pool. You have to have spacial orientation.
Milivoj: What do Bled and Bled Swimming Challenge mean to be? They mean a lot to me. I was swimming in Bled many times. We used to swim from one side of the lake to the other, two kilometres. My son Igor swam with me from Zaka to the island when he was only four years old. Bled was always my motivation and it is the most beautiful lake in the world. So, you all have to be there in July!
You were talking about the role education plays in doing sports… you two are also highly educated, you are doctors. Because of your profession, you had to travel a lot and consequently you have seen many parts of the world. Could you tell us what the natural advantages of Slovenia are? If you compare Slovenia to other countries… what about the culture of sport? What are the Slovenian advantages for organising the open water races?
Milivoj: Slovenia is ideal because it is small and everything is near. In April, you can ski and in one hour, you can swim in the Adriatic Sea. It has many beautiful destinations. Lake Bled in the most beautiful one and it is ideal for swimming because it isn't cold. I swam in Bled in winter where there was ice and we swam in a water which had zero degrees. In Bled, you can do lots of things. It is very important that these things are organised. Scandinavians are in the lead as long as the organisation is concerned. I also swam triathlon in Krka, but it wasn't as beautiful as here in Bled.
Tatjana: Slovenia has many possibilities. You can swim in a swimming pool, in rivers, lakes (Lake Velenje, Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj, Lake Krmelj). Simultaneously, you can watch beautiful nature. And then, of course, there is also the sea. Where in the world does one have such wonderful possibilities?
Milivoj: Once, when we swam in Koper, Tatjana swam too far. The marathon was from Koper to Žusterna and she wanted to swim to Piran (laugh).
How long have you been swimming at open water races? When was the first time that you swam at an open water race?
Milivoj: Me and Tatjana are very different. She likes to swim for fun. To me, open waters races present a part of my training. In Bled, I swam 1200 m 32 minutes. This is very fast. Now, I am old, but I don't want to lose my strength. That is why I work out every day.
Tatjana: My first marathon was in Koper. I was very proud because I swam with my grandchildren and my husband. As an amateur, I swam in Lake Velenje. The first time, I swam in a lake, was in Krmelj. I was 8 years old. I was a very good swimmer because I was buoyant and persistent. I also have one bad memory on this event. While I was swimming in the lake, there, suddenly, appeared a long grass snake. I think I broke the record in swimming back to the shore (laugh).
This is also the magic of open water swimming. We are slowly approaching the end of our interview. How do you prepare yourselves for Bled Swimming Challenge?
Tatjana: My preparations are very organised. I regularly visit the trainings led by my personal trainer Juš Veličković. He always challenges me and I think I've made some progress, especially in my swimming technique. I think about stamina all the time: I can, I want, I am!
Milivoj: Bled is a huge challenge for me, because people around me scare me that my wife will be faster. This is a recreational race for me, but still it matters to me who is faster. I have a feeling that I don't swim enough. I run marathons and play basketball and sometimes I don't have enough time to swim, too. Nevertheless, I will try to be faster than my wife.
But, do you think that you can make it?
Milivoj: I was always optimistic. And ambitious, too (laugh).
And now, our last cliché question. You have been married for a very long time, you are healthy, vital. What is your secret for a long, happy and healthy life?
Milivoj: As I said before, you have to stay mentally and physically active. This is the basic secret. If you neglect yourself, you will decay. And there is something else. Without mental activity, there isn't any physical activity… and the other way around.
Tatjana: You have to stay active!