“It was certainly neither intentional nor accidental that I finished the day with my athlete at a long-time friend’s house. It was another one of those days of frustration and helplessness, and hopelessness, as it was during the last three months of intensive therapies: massages, magnets, electrical stimulation, physical therapy, and who knows what else in the most expensive hospitals in Istanbul, with the best specialists and doctors. The diagnosis was an accumulation of water around the bone due to an injury six months ago; the pain “walked” from the knee all the way to the pelvis. My athlete could not sit, drive a car, or walk; we couldn’t even think about training. This was followed by a three-month treatment with injections against rheumatism, with accompanying headaches; surgery would be required if the treatment did not help. I feared losing the season and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
I dropped everything I mentioned above and advised her to visit a doctor in Zagreb since we didn’t have anything to lose anyway. But it was the same as in Istanbul, except that the top sports doctor Nataša Desnica recognized broken biomechanics in the Turkish Olympian and national sprint record holder Birsen Engin. We were supposed to continue with therapies in Zagreb the same way we did in Istanbul for three months without one day of training.
It was a sunny, cold December afternoon when I came to Aleš again, as was often the case in the last twenty years. An injured Birsen was also with me. Aleš knew I worked with athletes even though we hadn’t seen or heard from each other since the last time I visited him years ago with Elvan Abeylegesse and bought a bike. He was very interested in Birsen’s condition and offered us help in a completely unknown way. It sounded like he was doing something I’d never heard about before… Skeptical of his assistance but with the mindset that I have nothing to lose, we halted our conversation and moved to his office, where a completely new and incredible world was beginning for me, which I had not yet known with Aleš; the room was equipped for the best physical therapy that I have seen in the world in my many years of practice.
Aleš stopped talking, told Birsen to lie on the table, and began performing a string of unknown moves. In order not to disturb them, I left the room.
An hour later, she exited the room with teary eyes, hugged me, and said: “Thank you, coach, thank you so much, this is the best doctor in the world.” While I stood there, frozen… “But that’s not a doctor, that’s…” For the first time after six months, she ran over the yard with a wide smile and full of energy and said: “I can run!” It reminded me of a scene from Forest Gump, in which Forest runs from his bullies down the tree line, his leg braces falling apart with each step, but he keeps running even though no one is chasing him anymore. And after that, he just keeps on running.
I changed our plans: we moved to Brežice for a week, and since then, we have been preparing for the European Athletics Championships as if nothing had happened. After I sent a few more athletes to Aleš for therapy and he healed their injuries, people asked me what this doctor was doing. I still don’t exactly know myself, and I don’t know exactly how his therapy works and what all happens during it. I just send everyone to him and let them see for themselves. They always come back satisfied. I also bring Olympic record holders to Aleš, who have all given up or are being offered surgeries.
All of this is reminiscent of a racehorse that enters the trailer for the last time after its last, unfinished race, but this time it does not go to training or to a race, but by chance, lands in the only place where it should be.”