umetna noga športnika invalida na plaži

“Summer 1989: I was told that I would be dependent on others, that I would not walk, swim, or drive a car. Year 2023: Visited four continents, more than 10 countries, and traveled 40,000 kilometers. The moral of the story: If you dare to go against the current, it definitely pays off. Important: Of course, I couldn’t have done it alone. It wouldn’t have been possible without my loved ones and all those who believed in me, and even those who didn’t, giving me the motivation to prove myself right.” This is the story of Darko Đurić, a former Paralympic swimmer, who was born without both lower limbs and one arm. Over the years, we have read about his sports achievements and life endeavors. Among disabled swimmers, he has become a multiple world and European champion and has also swum world records. Three and a half years ago, when he was 30 years old, he turned a new page in his life and decided to end his successful sports career.

“It was the right decision. I achieved what I could, and I no longer had the motivation to continue. During the coronavirus period, I spent some time without pool training and did not miss it, which was also a sign that it was no longer for me,” he said at the beginning of our conversation, in which we focused mainly on his second career and finding his own limits. Despite his physical limitations, he constantly pushes the boundaries of what is possible.


Career After Career


He remains connected to sports, more so from this year onwards. “Soon after ending my career, I founded a startup company with sports therapist Greg Nahtigal, where we develop digital solutions in physiotherapy. I was most focused on this. A career after a career is always interesting. I must say that my post-career years have been very intense. My activity didn’t drop, I did even more than before. This was certainly helped by my sports achievements, as I had already shown that it is possible, that I can achieve a lot. The new year has brought some changes. I am stepping back from the Froomcare story, as I will dedicate my time to the development of para-volleyball and more active motivational speaking. I have already been active in para-volleyball. In 2021, I was the head of the delegation at the European Championship in Turkey. I help the team, both women’s and men’s. I hope that the women’s sitting volleyball team qualifies for this year’s Paralympic Games in Paris. That is one of the major goals. At the end of the year, it was awarded for the first time by the Slovenian Sports Journalists Association. At the Sportsman of the Year ceremony, it was named the best among disabled athletes. This is good news for para-sport, being recognized as equal. Para-sport did not have much media support in our country until 2012. The leap came with the Paralympic Games in London, and since then we have been on the same level. We hope for more equal treatment. The steps forward are there, but maybe too slow for us. Even disabled athletes train hard for success, but still in 2024, they have to fight for media space. That’s not really the best,” he touched on this topic.

Darko Đurić emphasizes the importance of engaging in sports for people with disabilities, primarily at the recreational level. “Sport has positive effects on both the body and the spirit. Recreation can also develop into something more, leading to a sports career, as was the case for me. I achieved international results, and this opened many doors for me. One of the positive aspects of engaging in sports is also the expansion of the social network. Many people with disabilities are more socially isolated, do not opt for social activities, for inclusion in society. Sport also gives this. And this network that you create is also important for other things, like finding a job,” he says.

He, fortunately, did not have problems finding employment. “I was never an active job seeker. I secured work for myself. Mostly, I am in contact with disabled people who are active, independent. However, I believe that employers still fear hiring disabled people. Fortunately, the state has provided several instruments to encourage them to employ disabled people. We certainly have some limitations, but so does every individual. Probably no one is suitable for every job. For myself, I can say that I cannot look for a job that would require physical activity, so I have opportunities in jobs where intellectual abilities are in the foreground. Everyone has their talents, which need to be encouraged and developed. Disabled people should be encouraged to be active, to do things they can,” he said.

Fighting Limits


Darko Đurić is known for constantly seeking his own limits. “I try to do as many things as possible to see where I’m good and where I can contribute to society. Sometimes, one might hit a wall. Many dare to set limits for people with disabilities, with any special needs. It’s often a significant battle not to allow that, to search for your limits yourself. It’s exhausting, but when you achieve something, when you can do things people said you would never do, it’s worth the effort,” he highlighted, adding that in this battle of proving oneself, energy often runs out. “For example, in sports, this was also related to financial resources. A lot of energy also goes into getting better prosthetics. With a good prosthetic, life can be of higher quality. There’s always a fight with bureaucracy, proving you’re right. Technology advances, but regulations don’t follow.”

One example he faced and eventually successfully resolved is driving a car. “It was a long and hard battle to prove that I could drive a car without modifications. I proved it on a simulator, in practice, in theory, but it still wasn’t enough. I had to be a tough negotiator to get permission. Often you feel pigeonholed, not knowing whether to continue the fight, or if you’re exaggerating in your desire for independence… Much of this energy could be put into other things. Despite much talk of equality, it’s not the case in practice,” he said.

Through sports, he met many people worldwide facing similar challenges, especially as a result of double above-knee amputations. They learn from each other how to live as independently as possible with the limitations they have.

Darko Đurić also explores limits in the field of prosthetics. Towards the end of last year, he revisited a clinic in Oklahoma, specializing in working with people with double above-knee amputations, like him.

“Every year, they organize a few days long international meeting of individuals with double above-knee amputations, which are very beneficial. Participants learn from each other how to live as independently as possible with the limitations we have. I owe a lot of thanks to this meeting for being able to use my prosthesis at a much higher level and being much more independent. I saw things there that nobody could show me in Slovenia. I am a specific case here. There are not many of us with three missing limbs, especially not as active as I am. I search for my limits, and therefore, I am quite a challenge for the professionals. All this also results in painful falls, scars, chipped teeth… The result is an independent life, and it’s worth all the effort,” he emphasizes.

Participating in the international gathering of individuals with double above-knee amputations has given him a lot, as he says. “Today, I can drive completely independently and without any modifications. In collaboration with Slovenian prosthetists, we have made better sockets (custom-made parts of the prosthesis that fix the stump), with which I can make the most of the microprocessor knee. I can live completely independently.” As he says, there are still reserves in prostheses, even though he already uses very sophisticated ones. “Technology also advances in this area. The prostheses I use have sensors, a computer inside the knee, which helps me walk. This is especially noticeable on uneven terrain, so the knee doesn’t buckle, making it easier to walk on stairs, slopes, sidewalks… It’s important that I’m also active, that I don’t avoid such terrain, challenges, that I get up in the morning, put on my prostheses, and go into the new day without fear that stairs…, something that would prevent me from continuing. That’s the most important thing,” he is satisfied.

Life is a Challenge


His will and desire for progress, for proving what he can do, are great. He is a significant inspiration and role model for many. He also presents his story in schools, companies… He was among the finalists for the best speaker (Best of speaker 2024, which became Ksenija Benedetti). “I like to share my story. The responses are positive. I especially try to inspire the young to think independently and not to be led by trends, to do things as they know is right.”

Disability is often a challenge, yet he openly says that everything he has today was given by a tiny mistake in his genetic code. “I came to the best family, living in the most beautiful village, in Podbrezje, met countless exceptional people, had a super interesting career in swimming, traveled quite a bit of the world, experienced things I wouldn’t even dare to dream of,” he is grateful and adds: “Disability is nothing terrible. We have the opportunity to accept it as an obstacle or as a challenge. We, the disabled, are just people with pluses and minuses, like everyone else.

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