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Sara Isakovic: Dubai and I dreamed big together

Olympic silver medallist looks back on how the UAE helped her excel

Image Credit: Supplied
Sara Isakovic
Gulf News

Dubai: Sara Isakovic is one of Dubai’s biggest sporting success stories. A silver medallist in the 200 metres freestyle at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the Slovenian swimmer is now looking at life beyond her sport despite being only 27 years of age.

Seven years ago, she became the second woman ever — behind only gold medal-winning Italian Federica Pellegrini — to break the 1min 55sec mark in the 200 metres freestyle. Her silver medal was celebrated with Isakovic being voted the Slovenian Sportswoman of the Year in 2008.

Growing up with her Slovenian mother Rebecca and Serbian father Nenad, along with her twin brother Gal, Isakovic travelled the world due to her father’s profession as a pilot and examiner with Emirates. Eventually, Nenad took the decision to settle his family in Dubai.

Things worked out well, with both children even having the privilege of training at the Zabeel Club of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. And Sara believes that facility was key to her successful career.

“My family moved to Dubai when I was just nine years old. At that time I already had the goal that one day I wanted to be an Olympic champion,” she told Gulf News.

“The problem was there was no available pool to train in. I can never thank Shaikh Mohammad enough for his generosity in making it possible for me to pursue my career. To this day I am grateful for the opportunity, because without it I couldn’t have made my dreams come true.

“Back in the day, Dubai was very different. Yet it already had the same philosophy of life that everything is possible.

Dreaming big

“Seeing Dubai grow and strive to be the best in so many different aspects allowed me to dream big with the city. All the goals Dubai had set for itself came true. The city taught me that there are no barriers to becoming the best if you set your mind to it. Dubai helped me grow into an open-minded, respectful person learning to appreciate the diversity and uniqueness of cultures from all around the world.”

She added: “Dubai is growing into the biggest metropolitan city, with the best sporting facilities and infrastructure, experts from all around the world and huge amounts of athletic potential.

“Dubai Sports City will be a fascinating place to be and I believe that athletes from all around the world will come and train at these venues.

“I am working on my future career to become a performance psychologist with the aim of helping people and athletes fulfil their potential. Since Dubai has given me so much, I would love to give back and contribute to Dubai’s sports, help athletes with their mental performance and prepare them to become Dubai’s next Olympic champions.

“My biggest advice to youngsters is ‘dream big’. One of my favourite quotes goes: ‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough’,” said Isakovic, who studied psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, following her success in the pool.

“In order to achieve greatness, you have to set high goals for yourself. Once you send those vibes out there, you have to get up every single day reminding yourself of that dream and putting in maximum effort every time.

“Nothing in life comes easy, so you have to fight for what you want. Learn from mistakes as they are only great learning opportunities and keep moving forward, never giving up on your dream.”

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