Igor Poki Vukadinović is a not only one of the best BMX riders in Croatia but one of the icons of Croatian BMX scene. Although only 28-years old, he is considered as a legend and the ambassador of the sport. As an Osijek-born, he is one of the biggest promoters of Pannonian Challenge. He’s known for his success – wins at the events such as Winner of Belgrade, which we won for four times, and Pannonian, but also as a judge for FISE World Series and the first rider who jumped over a tram.
Okay, first of all, I have to ask you who is Igor Vurkanović and how is it possible that you too look so much like each other?
Poki: That is my clone that does all the hard work for me! (laughs) Igor Vurkanović is actually me, but gentlemen from FISE have too much work do and get a lot of information, so they end up writing my name the wrong way every time. I’m already kinda used to it.
At this years’ Pannonian Challenge we saw you in a bit different role - instead of riding, you were one of the judges. Also, you were one of the judges for some of the FISE World Series events. What lead you to that?
Poki: Yes, I think I’m getting more and more into the judging world. It all started two years ago when I broke my leg and wasn’t able to ride Pannonian. I tried to be a judge, I liked it, and I immediately got comfortable with that role. From last year I’m one of the judges for FISE, one of the most significant extreme sports events in the world. I’m delighted that I can be a part of the team and I do my best to justice my judging skills. (laughs)
How hard and challenging has been to go from bike to judge chair and do you think that the fact that you’re also a rider made the new role more natural?
Poki: It was challenging like everything you try for the first time in your life. But I think I’m doing good with judging role, obviously, because I was asked to do it at all the FISE World Series stops. I’m very about it, and I like doing it. I actually love everything that has to do with BMX. (laughs) I would like to mention that I’m still a rider and I practice new tricks. I can easily say that I’m in the best condition regarding tricks and feeling confident on my bike. I hope that I’ll be riding for at least next 15 years.
During the years you had a lot of success riding contests, you’ve won Pannonian, Winner of Belgrade, but also some other competitions. What would you say your most significant accomplishment is, and what is your favorite contest, excluding Pannonian?
Poki: While I was doing contests I had a lot of success. I would mention BMX Masters in Koln, where I won the sixth place in the expert category. That was my first notable contest and one of the best results in my career. I love our regional events because the people connected to BMX and old BMX crew is always there. I’m still happy to be back in Belgrade for Winner of Belgrade, Novi Sad, Bukovac and also Maribor and Ljubljana in Slovenia. At such events, there are always great people and good vibes, which are the best things about this sport. There is some unique energy when you are surrounded by those people, and I love that. I’m a bit more focused on judging now, but I always find time to go to "our" contests.
You ride contests, but also you are an ambassador for the Pannonian Challenge and BMX as a sport. Just after Pannonian, you hit the road with Senad Grošić. How’s that going?
Poki: I would like to take this opportunity to thank Senad Grošić for inviting me to be part of his performances all over Austria and beyond. I love doing that, the team is fantastic, we always have a lot of fun, and I can’t complain about the money, either. Speaking of Pannonian, this year I joined the organization team. The experience is vastly different compared to the one I have as a rider. But I’m older, and I guess a bit more serious now. (laugh) I was responsible for the athletes, judges, awards, transportation. I would like to thank my long-time friend Jurica Barać for giving me that chance. It turned out we are the winning team, everything went without any problems, and I’m happy for that. (laughs)
You took part in many promotional activities for Pannonian Challenge – you are the first rider in the world who jumped over a tram, you were doing jumps on a bridge, you were BMX Santa Clause, and BMX mosquito. How do you end up in projects like those, and what was the craziest one?
Poki: Yeah, like you said, we had a few different projects. The craziest was the tram for sure, but the hardest was on the bridge. I had to go from the bottom to the middle of a bridge, and the angle is just crazy. I almost died from pedaling, but fortunately, everything went well in the end. (laughs) All those projects were intended to be a promotion of Pannonian. We wanted to show people what to expect at the event. Reactions were great, the crowd loved it, and we got more visitors to the festival. Expect something different every year!
Days ago, BMX was announced as an Olympic sport. How do you see the decision, and where do you see BMX in the future?
Poki: Yes, it’s excellent news, for me at least; but I think the other BMX fans would agree. I believe it’s a good thing, and I think it should even be there. It’s a competitive sport, and attractive to watch. I honestly think it’s good news for riders on Balkans, too. Now when it’s an Olympic sport, I believe state and city governments will invest more in skateparks, and support riders as potential Olympic athletes. There can be no progress without facilities. In the future, I see BMX as a serious and professional sport. I do kinda regret a bit because it will lose the ”hardcore lifestyle,” but I think it changes for the better.
How do you see BMX scene in Croatia today, and could you compare it to the times you started to ride? We all know for Marin Ranteš, but do you see any other rider who deserve our attention?
Poki: I think the scene grows, there is a lot of young people who ride and train. That sincerely makes me happy, and I hope there will be even more of them in the future. I hope they will have better condition than my generation did so that we can have more amazing riders like Marin Ranteš. Marin is my best friend and the best rider in this part of Europe. I’m happy for him, because he didn’t really have the best conditions, and he managed to get to where he is now. He’s working really hard, and I wish him the best! Of course, I would love to see him at the Olympics! (laughs) At the moment, there are a few kids in Osijek that show a lot of promise. They have excellent facilities, so it’s just up to them, how much are they willing to put in. We are thinking about making a BMX school, so we can help the kids who want to get into BMX. It’s always easier when you have someone who can help you with advice, or show you how to do a particular trick.
How much do you think Pannonian Challenge influenced the BMX scene in Osijek and Croatia?
Poki: You can’t overestimate the influence of Pannonian. Without it, there probably wouldn’t be this skate park, and it would surely be much harder for the riders. Pannonian is the most prominent extreme sports contest in Southeastern Europe, and everybody knows about it. We have guests from all over the world, and we are glad because of that. It motivates us to make it even bigger and better. Even I started to ride after accidentally running into a BMX contest as a kid, and seeing a backflip for the first time. That was it for me, and it hooked me for the rest of my life!
On the course of your career, you had quite a few injuries. How would you rate the support system regarding adequate doctors, physios, and medical experts? How much exercise, effort, all the background things does it take to be a BMX rider?
Poki: Unfortunately, injuries are an integral part of the sport; I’ve never met a rider who never had a severe injury during his career. You can’t really avoid them, but you can minimize them. There are many top brands of pads and helmets today, who can offer good protection for your head, knees, elbows. The main thing in this sport is the focus. You fly for several meters in the air, doing all kinds of crazy stuff. Falls can be pretty harsh, but you gain experience and learn how to fall – how to jump on your feet or hands, and not on your head. (laughs) There are many good doctors, but they are not really specialized in our kind of injuries. We have sports doctors, but they need more experience with BMX riders, to better know our needs, and our injuries, as they do in, let’s say the US. But I hope we’ll see the progress in the future. BMX, like any other sport, takes a lot of practice if you want to be better. You have to train hard, be fit, eat healthily, go to the gym. If you aim to be a pro, you have to stick to the plan.
So, the final question of the day – what can we expect from you next? Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share?
Poki: I don’t think there will be any more projects this year. We finished works around Pannonian Challenge, so in the next few months, I’ll be traveling with the FISE World Series as a referee. In the meantime, I will ride with Senad, and be making plans for the next year.