#70SportWays (69): Zlatko Šimenc, a true example of multisport: Water Polo and Handball national team player, doctor of kinesiology
There are few people in the world who can say that they played for two different national teams, but one such person has from his first sport steps been a member of HAŠK Mladost. This person is Zlatko Šimenc – one of the few athletes who could choose which sport he would like to play – water polo or handball. In the end he did not choose but became great in both.
As a kid he was practicing swimming for five years in Mladost, competing in all age groups from pioneer to junior, although later he would say for himself ” I was not buoyant”. He admits that he became a water polo first league player completely by chance. Namely, in those years water polo matches were held after swimming competitions, so in 1955, in Split after a swimming competition in which Zlatko swam for Mladost, the water polo coach gave him a cap, showed him which player to watch and the rest is history.
“Nowadays it is impossible, but in my time, you could play two sports. Water polo was played exclusively in the summer, there were no winter pools, and handball was played in spring, fall and winter. I was lucky, everything was aligned. I was born in a time when we did not have a TV or radio in the house. What else could I do then be outdoors and take part in sports?” says Šimenc.
Zlatko today counts 101 appearances for the national water polo team and 25 for the national handball team. With handball he twice participated in the world championships – 1958 and 1961, but at that time the national handball team was not as good as it is today. While in the water polo his biggest success is a silver medal at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and a number of successes at the European Championships (2nd place in 1958 and 1962, and 3rd in 1966) as well as in the Mediterranean Games and Universiade.
In water polo he was a defender, although he knew how to play the centre position, he liked to pass the balls and assist, which is very strange because in handball he was a pronounced shooter.
Zlatko Šimenc was a member of the golden generation of Mladost water polo. He won four European championship titles, four Yugoslav league titles, and later as a coach cup titles.
But we must not forget that Šimenc is a Doctor of Kinesiological Sciences, a retired full professor at the Faculty of Kinesiology in Zagreb, who has lectured at the Sports Games Department, in handball and water polo. Also, we must mention his son Dubravko Šimenac, who was also a great water polo player in Mladost and the national team, and without whom Croatian water polo would be significantly poorer.