Croatian Olympian visits Lambeau
BY RICH PALZEWIC
Not only is Croatia’s Martin Sinkovic an Olympic gold medalist in rowing, but he’s also a rabid Packers fan.
Sinkovic and his wife Manuela had a dream come true when they visited Lambeau Field for the Sept. 22 game against Denver and the Sept. 26 contest versus Philadelphia.
The pair was able to see a win and a loss, respectively.
The 29-year-old Sinkovic won a gold medal in double sculls with his brother Valent at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and a silver medal in London in the quadruple sculls.
American football is not a popular sport in Croatia, but Sinkovic saw a game on television in November of 2016, and the Packers happened to be the team he watched that day.
“I had never seen an American football game in Europe before, especially in Croatia,” he said. “There are only a few people who watch American football in Croatia – I first thought the game was boring to watch. Once I started to watch, I liked it and gave it a try. The Packers seemed like a nice team to me, so I started watching more of their games. When the season ended, I couldn’t wait until the next September to watch them again.”
To immerse himself in the team and culture, Sinkovic took his liking of the Green and Gold a step further.
“I began to watch films about the Packers and discovered the history and everything behind it – it’s something special,” said Sinkovic. “I’m a huge fan, and it was my dream to come to Lambeau and watch a game live. I got the time off after the World Championships and was able to come. It was perhaps the greatest 10 days of my life.”
Before arriving in America, Sinkovic sent an email to the Green Bay Rowing Club and accommodations were made for him to stay at the home of local rower Ken Dollhopf and his wife Lou Damiano.
Robinson Metal graciously donated tickets to the Sinkovics and invited them to a tailgate party.
“It will be really hard for me to explain what it was like in Green Bay and watching a game to my friends back home,” Sinkovic said. “There is a stadium in the middle of the city with houses all around. You have to be here to understand it. I hope to come back very soon, maybe even the year after next.”
The couple was also able to visit Door County for a day.
“I liked Door County – it was very pretty, but I liked Green Bay better,” said a smiling Sinkovic. “The people were very friendly. We also did a stadium tour and visited the Hall of Fame.”
In addition to his Olympic prowess, Sinkovic is a six-time world champion in various rowing disciplines.
“I have also qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” he said. “I am hoping to bring home another gold and continue my career until the 2024 Olympics in Paris for sure. You never know – maybe even the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, but that’s a long ways away and a lot of years from now.”
Sinkovic started rowing about 20 years ago at the age of 9.
“I have another older brother who saw rowing on television, and he liked it,” he said. “After I saw he had a good time, I started to row and Valent started rowing, too. My parents didn’t row but enjoy watching us when they can – it’s a beautiful story.”
While in Green Bay, Sinkovic was able to row with the Green Bay club three or four times to keep sharp in between going to the games.
“The Fox River is beautiful for rowing,” said Sinkovic. “It’s not too small or too big – we had a great time.”