Amel Tuka: Fighting for the podium at Tokyo 2020

Amel Tuka of Bosnia and Herzegovina, silver, celebrates after the Men's 800m final during at the 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF)
Amel Tuka of Bosnia and Herzegovina, silver, celebrates after the Men's 800m final during at the 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF)

History beckons for Bosnia and Herzegovina at Tokyo 2020 as the Balkan nation looks to win their first-ever Olympic medal

A nation's first Olympic medal is a special moment.

From Barbados's Obadele Thompson bronze in the men's 100m at Sydney 2000 to Fiji's gold medal at Rio 2016, it is a heart-warming and spine-tingling moment that is not easily forgotten.

So far, 149 National Olympic Committees have won an Olympic medal of any colour since the first modern games in 1896 (as of 9 July). And at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, there could be more nations added to that list including Bosnia and Herzegovina's Amel Tuka, who could write himself into the Olympic history books.

While the European nation have won Olympic medals under the Yugoslavian flag, since making their debut as an independent nation at Barcelona 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina have not stepped on the podium.

But that could all change at the Olympic Stadium starting tomorrow (31 July).

Speaking to the General Secretary of the Olympic Committee of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Said Fazlagić, on the Road to Tokyo 2020 podcast, Tuka spoke about his desire to help win an Olympic medal for his home country.

"I think the result is much better if we can hope for the medal that we are missing in the display cabinet," he said last month.

"Since independence, literally all of Bosnia's medals have come from the European Championships.

"We'll give our very best. We all have to think in our mind that we can give our best and [we] will achieve the best result. We have to fight for it ... if we have dreams for something, we won’t get it unless we dream it."

From Rio 2016 to Tokyo 2020

For the track athlete, the Tokyo 2020 Games will be his second Olympics. He came into Rio 2016 off the back of a historic bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships - it was Bosnia and Herzegovina's first major athletics championship medal - but missed the final of the 800m.

"Rio was full of pressure and [I was] not sleeping due to being nervous," Tuka, who was the flag bearer in the Opening Ceremony, explained. "Some small things and the training was not exactly as it should have been. In the end, everything ended in the semi-finals."

And while not everything went the way he had planned, it has been something he's learnt and grown from as an athlete.

"I don't think there should be anything missing this time. All that experience I went through during the Olympics now has given me much more security and stability in what I do."

Since Rio 2016, the Bosnian national 400m and 800m record holder has not only turned his World Championship bronze into a silver at Doha 2019, but he is currently the best 800m runner from Europe.

The 30-year-old is also currently ranked no.3 in the world behind the United States' Donavan Brazier (who has not qualified for Tokyo 2020) and Kenya's Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich in the 800m event.

And with back-to-back Olympic champion and world record holder David Rudisha missing Tokyo 2020 through injury, it leaves the door open for a new gold medallist in the men's 800m.

Tuka spent his lead-up to Tokyo 2020 training in Sankt Moritz, Switzerland, which is 800m above sea level, alongside fellow Olympians from several countries at a high-altitude training base.

"I only want to hone my form that I gained through hard training and, as I say, to reach that peak form just before going to Tokyo," Tuka mentioned. "This is the most important part because this is where I have to make certain of bringing my body to its peak."

"No one will get past us easily"

Being able to represent your nation at the world's biggest and greatest sporting event is a dream for many young athletes around the world.

And in a country where the population is just three million people, and only 45 Olympians have represented the nation, wearing the colours of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a significant moment.

"We're here to be taken seriously and that no one will get past us easily. And we will do our best for our side," Tuka said.

The chance to compete on the world's biggest stage is also a major opportunity for younger members of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Olympic team at these Summer Olympic Games. As one of the older members of the team, Tuka has encouraged the "younger ones" to go into Tokyo relaxed, gain experience and accept the pressure.

"It can also be good for the younger ones. Somehow, the members of the team need to go there relaxed, to get the experience and stability, as well as accept that pressure. They can come unburdened and maybe get a very good result," he said.

"I say go for it and why not fight for the podium at the Olympics because we just have to get out and just give this a go as we might pull out some of the best results.

"We just have to get out of it and get into the wider world, where only champion medallists belong, simply we need to fight to give our best at that moment and we will never regret if we are defeated when we know we did our best."