A natural leader with an interest in politics, Serbian water polo player Vanja Udovicic has represented three countries during his international career but has yet to win Olympic gold.

The modest 29-year-old picked up a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and silver four years before that in Athens.

Udovicic has also captained Serbia, nicknamed The Dolphins, to victories in the 2010 World Cup, the World League in 2011 and the European championship with a win over neighboring Montenegro in January's final, leading to high expectations for the team in London next month.

"There is big pressure for us because in Serbia people already think we're going to be in the victory ceremony but the Olympics haven't even started yet," team coach Dejan Udovicic (no relation) told Reuters.

"Vanja plays in defense and offence and the Serbian team needs his high level in London. His influence on the players is huge."

Serbia lost their world title to Italy in 2011 after an 8-7 defeat in extra time but coach Dejan believes neighbors Hungary and Montenegro present the biggest threat next month.

The most experienced member of the team, Vanja is one of the few still playing who, by virtue of the reshaping of the Balkans in recent years, ended up representing three different countries in Yugoslavia, Serbia & Montenegro and, from 2006, Serbia.

The Belgrade-born player is a household name in Serbia and has not ruled out a possible future in politics.

"The relationship between sport and politics is a close one because we know how to behave in times of crisis," said Vanja who is studying for a masters degree in organizational sciences.

(Additional reporting by Aleksander Vasovic and Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; Editing by Alison Wildey)