Dubai: Much has been documented on Serbia’s involvement in the Yugoslav Wars between 1991 and 1999. First came the war in Slovenia, followed by the war in Croatia, the war in Bosnia and the war in Kosovo.
At the end of it all, thousands were displaced and a few thousands more lost everything they owned. Among these was Branko Petrovic.
Growing up, Petrovic had his focus on experimenting with different forms of apnea, leading him to develop a perfect adaptation to the aquatic world. For the past five years, Petrovic has been practising apnea as a sport discipline with the hope of being a full-time professional free-diver.
His dream took off and Petrovic became a world champion and world record holder by keeping his breath underwater for 9.32 minutes in September 2011. Subsequently, he achieved a best time of 10.23 minutes during the Submania Cup in Croatia in November 2013.
“That was the start for me. I could not believe that someone was offering me just the amount needed for me to clear all my debts. I had no hesitation in saying yes as the Gulf region is where it all started as free-divers went in search of pearls so many years ago. So I think it is but fair to have the world record set right here,” Petrovic told Gulf News.
However, he was replaced in the record books by French multiple record holder Stephane Mifsud with a better time of 11.35 minutes in June 2009. This effort has remained untouched for the past more than five years and Petrovic has targeted Dubai to re-write the world record.
Backed by Dubai Sports Council (DSC) and the Kemos Group of Companies, Petrovic will be attempting to re-write the old record while setting a target of a minimum of 12 minutes for a new world mark.
New life after debt
Mohammad Al Khayat, CEO, Kemos Group of Companies, has assured Petrovic payment of Dh10,000 for every minute the Serb stays underwater, meaning he stands to earn Dh120,000 for his effort – just enough to settle all his debts and start life afresh.
Petrovic will attempt the new record on Friday on the sidelines of the inaugural ‘Spearo Extreme Sports Expo’ being held at the Skydive Dubai site on The Palm Jumeirah.
Since surrendering the world record to Nitsch, the Serbian has timed 12.11 minutes underwater back home in January this year. But this time has not been recognised as there was no Level A judge present to ratify the attempt.
The ‘Spearo Extreme Sports Expo’ is being held at Skydive Dubai from October 9 to 11 with participants getting the rare opportunity of live demonstrations in kite surfing and electrical bicycles from the 40 odd exhibitors who have registered for the exhibition.
Also planned during the three days of the event are seminars with well-known explorer Adrian Hayes as one of the speakers.
Born in Split, Petrovic now lives in Belgrade. But successive wars literally took away everything he had – no home, no land and a splintered family following the separation of his parents. Further, debts went on increasing, when one night about three months back, he received a telephone call from Zarir Saifudden, owner and editor-in-chief, Spearo Freediving magazine, asking him how much Petrovic would take to attempt a world record in Dubai for holding his breath under water.