Masa Grgan is a rising junior on the women’s tennis team. She recently competed in the World University Games in Russia, representing her native country of Slovenia. Upon arriving home, she was kind enough to tell us in her own words about her trip and experience.
The World University Games are hosted every two years by a different country. To be eligible to play in the games, a tennis tournament is organized in Slovenia for all the players who are enrolled in college. The winner of the tournament, as well as the runner-up, are selected to represent Slovenia at the World University Games.
Two years ago, I won that tournament and was supposed to go to Shenzen, China, where the Games were being hosted. However, I was unable to go because I was a freshman at GSU, about to start my first semester, and was required to be in Atlanta earlier than the returning student-athletes. This year the head of delegation for tennis nominated me to represent Slovenia in Russia based on my results in America, as well as my victory on the selecting tournament two years ago.
The games were just amazing. The Russians organized the whole event incredibly well. The opening ceremony fascinated me the most. It was held in an arena filled with about 45,000 people. All of the athletes represented their country by walking in one circle around the arena wearing their team clothes and carrying their flags. The emotions of representing your country in front of such a big crowd cannot be described. The opening ceremony ended with Russian president Vladimir Putin opening the games and lighting the Universiade fire that was lit by famous Russian athletes.
Throughout the games, all of the athletes lived in the Universiade Village, where there was something going on every day. There was a huge cafeteria where we could eat at all times, basketball and volleyball courts, tents with video games, table tennis, relaxation beds, etc. We were also able to go watch any other sport that was going on. Toward the end of our stay, we went on a sight-seeing trip to get to know Kazan a little bit. That was when we realized even more that the whole city really lived for the games. There was a Universiade logo about every 10 feet and citizens of Kazan recognized us, wanting our signatures and pictures.
Most of our delegation left three days before the Games came to an end, so we were not able to see the closing ceremony. However, this certainly is an event I will remember for the rest of my life. It made me realize that student-athletes are exceptional, and it does matter what we do. In a way, Universiade felt like an award for all the hard work I’ve put in. To be able to participate in such a big event, meet and even play against one of the best players in the world is something I will never forget. The event also gave me a lot of motivation to go back to work after the summer is over, and try to improve my game further for my upcoming year at Georgia State.