Dubai: Dubai-based Maltese swimmer Andrew Chetcuti will make his Olympic debut in London tomorrow with targets of slashing his personal best in the 100m freestyle and qualifying for next summer’s World Championships.
Racing in lane five of eight in heat three at the Aquatics Centre in Stratford from 1pm UAE time, the 19-year-old former Dubai College student will aim to slash his personal best of 51.85s to advance his fledgling career.
With places up for grabs at this December’s short course World Championships in Istanbul and next July’s World Aquatic Championships in Barcelona, Chetcuti vows to secure a spot, even if it’s not in the Olympic semi-final.
“I’m feeling nervous but training has been going really well and I just hope the race goes to plan,” Chetcuti told Gulf News.
“The semi-finals will be very hard to make, but not impossible. I’ll be aiming to race under 50 seconds and earn a World Championship cut — that would be awesome.”
“I’ve been doing some speed work in the pool for an hour every morning with short 15 metre bursts, working on my strokes to keep the count down. But, I’ve not been doing too much diving because I want to save my legs,” the holder of seven Maltese records who arrived in London last Sunday, who will be supported by his parents Clifford, Natalie and brother Matthew, said.
“The rest of the time I’m in the Olympic Village eating, sleeping and watching the events on TV with my feet up, just trying to get focused for the race. It’s great here in The Village, the athletes are so well catered for in terms of food and facilities.”
“My first day in the pool, I was a bit nervous with the big guys around. I knew it was time to get focused. Now, I’m a lot more settled and I’m not so worried about the others because whatever they do, it won’t affect me. The pool is amazing, it’s really deep and the stands are massive. The atmosphere should be amazing. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Speaking of the opening ceremony, Chetcuti, who was one of Malta’s five athletes and seven officials representing the Maltese flag, added: “It was unreal, the coolest experience to walk out with 80,000 people in the stadium and one billion watching on TV. I’ll always remember it.”
Serbian’s Olympic swimming debut
Meanwhile, Dubai’s other expatriate debutant Olympic swimmer Velimir Stjepanovic, 18, of Serbia, won heat three of the men’s 200m butterfly today with a time of 1:54.99, going through to the semi-final.
This followed on from success in his earlier event – the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay yesterday – where Serbia finished seventh out of eight in heat two, clocking a national record of 3:18.79, three seconds off a place in the final. Stjepanovic was out in 23.27 for a total 49.13 – his fastest ever relay split.