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Stjepanovic surpasses all expectations

UAE-born and bred, Serbian’s Olympic debut a proud moment for Dubai

Image Credit: EPA
Velimir Stjepanovic of Serbia reacts to his score after competing in the men’s 200-metrebutterfly heat in London on Monday
Gulf News

London: After a creditable sixth place in the men’s 200m butterfly final at the Aquatics Centre here, Dubai-born and bred swimmer Velimir Stjepanovic is convinced he is on the right track for a medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

“My goal when I started training for London was to reach the semi-finals of my event. But I have far exceeded these expectations by making it to the final,” Stjepanovic told Gulf News here.

“Obviously this is not my personal best time and I am a bit disappointed with that. But I made it to the final when my target was a semi-final.””
-Velimr Stjepanovic | 
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The Serbian swimmer will only turn 19 on August 7 and, with four years to go before the next Olympic Games in Brazil, he feels he is on the right track. “There is nothing more that I can do at this moment, but just go ahead with more hard work and training. I really don’t need to change anything in what I am doing. I am on the right track,” he added.

Competing in his maiden Olympic Games, Stjepanovic, who trains at Dubai’s Hamilton Aquatics under coach Chris Tidey, was a bit disappointed he failed to set a personal best time in his pet event, despite such a quick final.

South African Chad Le Clos won the 200m butterfly final, denying American Michael Phelps by a mere 0.5 seconds — also stopping him becoming the first man to win an Olympic swimming event three times in a row.

Stjepanovic came in for a sixth-placed finish with a time of 1:55.07, also behind Takeshi Matsuda, Dinko Jukic and Tyler Clary.

“Obviously this is not my personal best time and I am a bit disappointed with that. But I made it to the final when my target was a semi-final and that has given me a lot of confidence,” he said.

Stjepanovic has been so focused on his swimming that he has decided to take a year off from his studies as he targets a medal in Rio.

“I have four more years and the future is all about carrying on from here and continuing with the training,” he said.

“I have a pretty good gauge on where I stand in men’s swimming and I think I am pretty much up there with the best. I don’t really need to reassess or re-focus on my goals. They still remain the same.”

Stjepanovic intends to spend the next few days at the Games and then head off to Serbia to celebrate his 19th birthday with his family, before returning to Dubai by the middle of August.

“After that it will be back to training and getting ready for the World Championships [in Barcelona] next year,” he said.