The Winner

Journal of Battle and Victory
Born without the left forearm, this handsome and talented young man had on his journey much more obstacles than the others. He had to learn the beauty and cruelty of life in a painful way. When he broke the psychological barrier in himself, he conquered the world. He won medals, love and respect. He will not forget the unknown man from public transportation from whom he has heard the most important sentence in his life. The moment when on the winner’s pedestal you are listening to your country’s anthem, he says, cannot be compared with anything and gives the highest meaning to his entire life and sacrifice

By: Dejan Bulajić

Those who don’t know trouble, don’t know struggle. Those who don’t know struggle, don’t know what it means to be a winner. Rastko Jokić has chosen the struggle, in order to conquer himself, time, prejudices, bad characters. That story lasted for a long time, the tame it takes to search for oneself and for answers that usually slip away, like water between fingers, and it seemed like we had them on the palm of our hand. Today he is the winner who came to terms with himself, understood the time and cast away bad tempers. On the palm of his hand a few collected drops have remained, as memory of himself and power of experience.

– I have reasons to be proud of myself. I have achieved something valuable in my life and become someone and something. However, these are just open doors. Wishes have begun to come true, but they will not continue to do so by themselves. Great challenges are yet ahead of me, and I must be up to them. I know what I am prepared to invest and I am sure that this effort will pay off.
Now, when success brings him peace and quiet satisfaction, it is an opportunity to remember growing up in a way that is less painful.
– Since childhood I have had inside me strong survival instinct, because I was born with a disability. I have tried to make an extra effort to prove myself, to show that I am not only equal with other children, but better than them, because I sensed that, if I discovered I was weak, I would be defeated. These feelings came to the fore in elementary school, staring from the sixth grade, when I became the subject of unpleasant challenges, from children who become to assert themselves in the society by bullying those who are weaker. There was so much of it, from insults and ridicule, to physical abuse, so at in that period every going to school for me was like a personal hell that I had to endure. It occurred to me many times to leave school, but I knew that I could not do that, which meant that I had to learn to put up with everything that was happening to me. Unfortunately, I could not have counted on support from my family, so I struggled to endure all of it. It became clear to me that nobody would help me, or make it easier for me to overcome all that, and already at that time I have begun to fortify myself and convince myself hat I must overcome everything, because otherwise I would cease to exist.
That struggle, with yourself and with others, lasted for years.
– I refused to show myself, I did not want to go to the swimming pool, I always wore wide clothes and especially liked winter, because then it was easier to cover my deficiency. Anyway, throughout the first year of high school nobody noticed my problem, because with my clothes and behavior I managed to hide it. In the second year I decided to stop it all and face myself. I realized that I should not hide any more and that I must deal with my complex. You can only imagine what surprise it was when I showed up at school the next day with my sleeves rolled up. However, it was exactly this reaction, the shock I caused, that made me stronger. I was no longer hiding among the more dominant and more powerful than I was. I showed myself openly, with the deficiency that I had, in a group of people who don’t have such problems, but who are still slaves to some frustrations of their own, which they were hiding. When I managed to overcome that psychological, barrier, some other horizons opened up. An ambition emerged to make something out of my life, to communicate with people more directly and to approach girls without hesitation. I began to look forward to life and what was ahead of me.


In a difficult childhood, there is still room for nice memories.
– If I was to talk about that, then these are memories from the park behind my building, in Miljakovac. It was my little refuge, where I would go after all the troubles which befell me. It was the gathering place where for kids who had known me from early childhood and accepted me for what I was. We played football, basketball, fed dogs and cats, built tree houses and felt safe. It was there that I was able to find what I was missing in other places: I was accepted and didn’t have to hide. It was the most beautiful part of my childhood, also important because in that period I developed love for sports, since I realized that in that field I could be the best. I used to play football well when I was little. I remember, after one tournament in my neighborhood, in which my father played, I took the ball to have some fun, and I attracted attention of Dragan Džajić. He asked my father to bring me to Crvena zvezda to practice. And it would have happened if I hadn’t been only eight years old then.
Encounter with shooting.
– It seems that everything happened by accident, but there are too many coincidences so it is hard for me to believe that. I remember that, at the time when I wasn’t thinking seriously about sports, in a public transportation I met an unknown man who told me that I had to start practicing sports and that there is an association for people with disabilities. I didn’t understand him quite well, he even surprised me a little, but I remembered his story a few years later. Namely, after my first year in university, at the faculty of informatics, I realized that that was not my life call. It was too static, and I could not imagine myself as a man who would be chained to a chair and screen for years. I needed something more intensive. Then I made the decision that sports would be my life. I went to the association and told them that I wanted to practice sports. By accident, shooter Sredo Radović happened to be there, and he asked me to come to them. I wasn’t’ thinking about shooting at that time. I wanted to practice some other sports. However, when I had some free time, it occurred to me that I should go to the shooting range and remember my childhood love for shooting, before I choose some other sport. It has turned out that I remained in the shooting range.


In a short time, it turned out that I was in the right place.
– I think that it is very rare that someone after only six months of practicing achieves prestigious result on the world stage, and I did that. The beginning itself suggested something like that. I did my first trainings with a rifle. When I reach a certain norm, I was told, I could start using a gun. I achieved that in only a month, causing disbelief at the club. Half a year later, I won silver medal at the International Championship in London and fulfilled the norm for Paralympic Games in 2012. I was supposed to go to one more qualification tournament in America and confirm that norm, but unfortunately I did not have funds. So, the Paralympic Games took place without me after all. It did not make me lose my morals, on the contrary. I realized that I had found the means and the way. The rest was a matter of time.
On that road, he received special support from his coach Nenad Pajić, who is also the selector of the national team.
– My encounter with him was the turning point in my career and my life. He has polished by talent, showed me how I should work and how dedicated to sport I had to be, if I wanted to succeed. And I wanted that. My trainings had a clear system and were not based only on shooting, but also on conditional and psychological preparations. I discovered the fullness of sports and what really lies behind all supreme results. In only one year we achieved great success: title of European champion, which I won, together with world record, with a small caliber gun m. At that same competition in Alicante, in October last year, I won bronze medal with air gun and two more medals in team competition, silver and bronze.

Great satisfaction for what was happening to him and for the invested effort is certainly the fact that today he represents not only himself, but his country as well.
– Only when you go to a major competition, in the strongest competition, you become aware of the pride of your origin. That feeling is incomparable, that desire to give your best to bring fame not only to your own name, but to the country that you come from. I had that pleasure to listen to our national anthem on the winner’s pedestal. In a life of an athlete, there is nothing else that can be compared with such a moment. The entire life and every sacrifice get their highest meaning.
Finally, we world like to know what life is, seen through the eyes of someone like Rastko Jokić.
– Life is a two-faced phenomenon. It can be very beautiful and very cruel. My motto is that life is a state of mind. If you are positive and you look at what is happening to you in that way, life will respond in the same manner, And if you are negative and you experience everything as some kind of punishment, then bad things will really happen to you. That is my guiding thought in life and it led me to what I am right now, and I hope that it will keep guiding me toward goals that I long to achieve and make me an even better person. <


Emergency Situation
– The results from Alicante mean even more to me because I achieved them in extraordinary circumstances: the evening before the competition I had food poisoning after eating in the hotel restaurant. I didn’t sleep until five thirty in the morning, I was dehydrated, and when we went to the shooting line I still had strong pain in my stomach. In such a condition I found myself in the strongest competition. I was looking at the shooting elite, medal winners, struggling to overcome their excitement, while I had to worry that my stomach would not make me run to the bathroom. That annulled the fear and even entertained me. I knew that it was my chance and I didn’t want to miss it


– Last year, when I reached the title of European champion, I also met a person who makes my story and my life complete. Marija, my girlfriend, understands me perfectly, understands my need to constantly prove myself and to extend my limits. She makes me feel wonderful. When I am with her I think about everything that used to look completely out of reach for me: family and children, to whom she and I would be constant support and teach them everything they must do alone for themselves.


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