Asmir Begovic set to kick-off husband and wife sporting double at the World Cup
By Andrew Baldock
Asmir Begovic will complete the first half of what could be a remarkable husband and wife sporting double this weekend when he lines up for Bosnia in their World Cup opener against Argentina.
Cheering on the Stoke City goalkeeper in Rio de Janeiro's imposing Maracana Stadium will be his wife Nicolle and daughter Taylor.
And if Nicolle has her way, then Asmir will one day be returning the compliment - at a future Olympic Games.
A rapid return to Rio for the 2016 Olympics is unlikely, but such is her drive and determination to make it as an international dressage rider - she is training full-time with multiple British Olympian Richard Davison - that Tokyo 2020 cannot be discounted.
And Nicolle readily admits that her professional footballer husband's influence in terms of achieving sporting success has proved a driving force.
'I want to go to the very top. I have always dreamed big, and that is what you need to push you to get there,' she said.
'I am really lucky that my husband also has incredible ambitions within his career, so he has never questioned my commitment, my aspirations or my goals. He has always been behind me 100 per cent.
'He understands what it takes to get to the very top of his sport, so he has backed me the whole way to help me get to the top of mine.
'We are both incredible supporters of each other, although he has had a head-start! He has totally embraced the sport of dressage, especially understanding the business, training and athleticism side of it.'
Begovic, who was born in Tennessee, but moved to Britain aged 10 and has Olympic hopes of representing Bosnia, is currently competing on the British Premier League dressage circuit with her German horse Waldessarini - stable name Foxy.
And Davison, who rode as an individual at London 2012 and was reserve for the gold medal-winning Great Britain dressage team of Charlotte Dujardin, Laura Tomlinson (formerly Bechtolsheimer) and Carl Hester, has no doubt she possesses sufficient talent to become an international performer.
'I think we are on the brink of something exciting. Nicolle is shaping up really well,' Staffordshire-based Davison said.
'She has started off at Small Tour level, and it's looking good. The plans are big, the plans are Olympics. I am not saying the Rio Olympics - I don't know whether that is going to be too soon or not - but there is definitely an Olympic target.
'She came to me on trial. She has proved herself to me with her commitment and dedication, and I am completely committed behind helping her achieve that big goal.
'From my point of view, Nicolle learns very easily, she takes her training very seriously. We don't mess about or pander to her, she gets stuck in like everyone else.
'It really helps that she is married to a professional sportsman, who is very focused, professional and committed. And with that kind of ethos around the house, it rubs off on Nicolle.
'We've got a very clear plan. We started off with the national shows, and now we have moved to Premier League shows. We have very clear performance goals, which include probably trying to move to smaller international shows later this year.
'Inevitably, there are some administrative challenges in terms of getting a Bosnian equestrian federation affiliated to the Federation Equestre Internationale (world governing body), so there are a few hoops to jump through yet.
'While dressage might look a glamorous sport from the outside, it's not glamorous from the inside.
You have to roll your sleeves up - there is no special treatment.
'If you want to be a winner, you have to get stuck in and do everything, and that is why I am so impressed with her attitude.'
And Nicolle, who met her future husband while studying accountancy at university, has no intention of letting a golden opportunity slip by.
'It is a very exciting time. I feel like a kid at Christmas,' she added.
The Stoke City goalkeeper moved to Britain aged 10 and has Olympic hopes of representing Bosnia
'It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to be based with Richard, and I don't intend wasting it. I am an incredibly determined - and slightly stubborn - person.
'Richard is someone I have grown up admiring, and I have got to know people like Charlotte and Carl.
I love watching them, and I go to as many shows as I can. They are the best places to learn - you have got to immerse yourself in it.
'I consider it a full-time occupation. I am there first in the morning, and I will be there last thing at night if that's what it takes. This is what I want to do. I absolutely love it.'
In the the meantime, the World Cup calls.
'Myself and Taylor are flying out to Rio on Friday,' she said. 'We can't wait to be there in the Maracana for Asmir's first game - and it also means I get a preview of Rio before the Olympics.'