Being Better than Yourself
The law of athletics is strict and honest: you’re alone in the arena and everything depends on you. You compete to overcome yourself, not to defeat other competitors. Sports is a great privilege, because, among other things, it enables the athlete to live a game. I always add the fighting aspect, because I have it in my character. The power of overall manipulation and inversion around us today is enormous, almost demonic, and represents a great temptation. If we remain faithful to our proven values, we’ll survive and win

By: Dejan Bulajić
Photo: Guest’s Archive

He’s a true warrior in athletic arenas. The best Serbian combined events athlete. Mihail Dudaš (Novi Sad, 1989) reveals for National Review the power of his impressions collected in his years of athletic and human growth.
– I entered the world of athletics very early. I was eight when my brother’s coach took me to a children’s athletics event in Germany. It turned out I was both talented and had a great wish to participate. Unlike other boys, I tried many disciplines, equally successfully, which made my coaches Goran Obradović and Feđa Kamasi, with whom I still cooperate today, direct me towards combined events. It was the right decision. I achieved the qualifying standard for the world championship already at the first combined events competition I participated in. I was always attracted by diversity and combined events is exactly such.

Are you satisfied with the development of your career?
One of the features of true sportsmen is that they’re never satisfied with their achievements, even when they win medals. Same is with me and I believe that I could’ve done more in some situations. However, the most important thing is that what I do makes me complete. I’m satisfied with the way I spend my time, the rhythm of my obligations, trainings, travels, competitions and everything accompanying it. I love what I do, I respect what I am and ready to give my best to prove myself in it.

Do you feel your life is in the right place?
Without any doubt. I have the privilege to play. I entered athletics because it seemed to me like playing, without premeditation. I didn’t think about how far I’ll go, whether I’ll be successful, if I’ll be able to make a living from it. That feeling, still alive in me, means a lot. Besides, I’m aware that many people in Serbia today are forced to work just to survive and don’t love their job. Rare are those who can make a normal living with a job they love. I see myself among them – I do what I love, I think I’m successful in it and, above all, I can make a decent living from it.

Sports is not only a world of playing. It’s also a world of battles, which can be ruthless.
I believe that makes my impression about sports complete. Already as a boy, I felt that a game was complete only after it had grown into a battle. That’s why I became infected with sports so early. My character is such. Therefore, I can say I haven’t changed much, because I always wanted to prove myself that way. I’m doing it now – with persistence, training and aspiration to be one of the best world combined events athletes. I love the thought of being able to remain what I’ve always been, to see sports as a game, and in competitions turn into a gladiator, who gives more than he gives at trainings.


Does a gladiator with a little boy’s heart believe that athletics is still the queen of sports?
Of course. Every sports is related to athletics, while athletics isn’t related to any. It has a strict, but very honest law stating that you must always give your best if you want to be among the best. Simply, you’re alone in the arena and everything depends only on you. There’s no team, no fellow players who can push you or cover for you if it’s not your day. Be convinced that, on big competitions, it never happened that an athlete, who didn’t feel so well that day and thereby gave less than expected from him, won a medal. There’s no alibi in athletics, no shortcut to success, although nothing similar, to be honest, exists in any other sports.

The need to be better than yourself created a specific knight’s code among athletes.
That’s very explicit, because we’re all aware that we’re fighting against ourselves, not others. The one who celebrates victory at the end is the one who overcame himself, not other competitors. That’s why there are no negative aspects of competition among us – envy, provocations or anything alike. Combined events athletes often support and encourage each another, because we understand the meaning of the competition.

Does contemporary sports recruit doubtful heroes?
There are many aspects confirming it. It all begins with the aspiration to succeed at any cost. Ever since money entered sports, victories are not only a matter of simple prestige. Many are ready to cheat for triumph. Both revealed and concealed doping affairs prove it. Sports creates winners, but not the power of humanness. Today, when victories are draped in great fame and money, it just doesn’t go together. Many athletes don’t have time to develop good personalities, and those who force them and make big money on them don’t ask for it. That’s why we come upon persons who completely changed when their careers went rapidly upwards compared to their beginnings in sports. My objective is not to lose touch with the world I came from, not to forget the meaning of attention, decency, consideration. The importance of memory of all that we have been, what made our character, and the people we grew up with.


It seems that the general system of values is more and more based on people who don’t deserve so much attention?
There are, unfortunately, many examples confirming it. I will just mention ”starlets” and ”pumped up singers”, now constantly present in the public. A system of anti-values, vulgar and thoughtless, completely irresponsible, is organized and promoted through them. It’s another question why this is now considered valuable, who enabled the dominance of such people and primitivism and how. We should think about how to resist and how to incite young people to recognizing, to resistance. The world today withholds from speaking about honor, dignity, good intentions, while those impersonating them are not given significant attention or the power of desirable examples. Many pseudo-motifs of the public scene and trash media should be unmasked in the eyes of young people, showing them clearly how many doubtful characters and under-human values are standing behind them.

What else, besides gaining a winner’s character, did sports help you in?
Travels are something I’d never be able to afford if it weren’t for sports. Athletes have a great privilege to have the opportunity to visit a large part of the world and discover the abundance of differences. All that helps one enrich his own world and life, adopt and perhaps apply something. Finally, it incites us to respect our own uniqueness. Only authentic nations can be important and unique on the world scene.

Do you think that contemporary generations don’t understand the signs by the road” they are passing?
Digitalization and the entire internet realm, which made a great number of people addicts and became their only area of meaning, took its toll. People see freedom in it, believing they’re free from control, without even anticipating that all this is controlled by a big eye. Material aspects became predominant and only a few people today think about beauty, which is within reach of our hand and doesn’t cost a cent. Less and less people approach others with a smile, less and less like to walk by the river or watch the sunset. For them it’s more important to have an expensive iPhone or something similar, unaware that they’re just becoming increasingly lonely and angry.

Where does deliverance lay?
I’m afraid something like that first requests waking up. Completely. A great number of people isn’t even aware that they’re slaves of social networks and the internet, that such stimulation robs their real life. If they don’t fight it, they’ll remain imprisoned in their virtual world, deeply convinced that they’re in the right place and that that’s what they need. It’s hard to reach such people. I wish someone would help them, but don’t really believe it’s possible. The power of digital manipulation in the contemporary world is enormous, it seduces both children and adults. The price can be terrible. However, there is hope, and it is in the entire world around us. The real world with its imperishable beauty.


Moments you remember, outside of sports?
Perhaps it’s the moment I confronted freedom and felt I’m up to it. I was twenty-one and traveled to America to visit my friend who lives in Kansas. I was late for my plane in Chicago and had to spend the night in the city. However, I wasn’t sorry for it. On the contrary. I was alone, too far from my world and, in an unusual way, completely aware that I’m ready for any kind of challenges. Such a thought made me happy. I went to the hotel – and the room was beautiful. I was singing a song and fell asleep easily. I woke up early in the morning in the same mood. It was a strange feeling of a wonderful encounter with myself, wakening of a feeling of safety and self-confidence, which, obviously, doesn’t request a big reason. We need so little to surprise and make ourselves happy.

Do you think about what else, besides athletics, could make you complete?
Not yet. I’m entirely satisfied with what I do, sports gives me great satisfaction for the enormous efforts I invest, it makes me active, offers me the opportunity to travel and discover the world. I don’t try to think beyond that. When I do begin thinking about it one day, it’ll be a signal that it’s time to turn my life into other directions.

Are athletes aware that they’re often the only true joy to their nation?
Certainly. Some would say that it creates additional pressure, but I don’t think so. The pressure is on people who have difficult lives and confront serious problems, illnesses. It’s a privilege to be able to offer at least a bit of joy to someone. We, athletes, have that privilege. I’m honored for it. I felt the magic of it at the European Championship in Belgrade. It’ll be a motivation for all future competitions, to do something that’ll make at least one person smile.


Mihail Dudaš competes in combined events: decathlon outdoors and heptathlon indoors. He is the national record holder in both disciplines. His great athletic successes include two bronze medals at the European Championship for younger seniors, bronze in heptathlon at the 2013 European Athletics Championship in Goteborg, bronze at the 2016 European Athletics Championship in Amsterdam...


Cherishing Your World
– What we loved as young people is the most correct, because it was from the heart. Renouncing it would mean losing the most beautiful part of our self. It is our foundation, the fruit of our confidence, because we never felt as good as we did in our home, with our family, with true friends. Only such experiences are free of doubt, which later warns us before everything and everyone. I cherish the world of my growing up, my family, customs, old friends. I never forget them, regardless of my obligations. I can be absent for a long time, but I know where and who I return to. I’m sorry for those who renounce such things, without being aware of their loss.


Upcoming Challenges
– After the European Championship in Belgrade, which meant a lot to me, I will compete at the World Championship in London in August. I’ll try to prepare as best as I can, achieve my best result and enjoy it with all my heart.


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