This year’s FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Doha is not only a highlight event in the global sporting calendar but is lining up to be the must-attend event in Qatar this year. Over five days, the world’s fastest swimmers will compete at Hamad Aquatic Centre for the ultimate prize – title of World Champion.
In an interview ahead of the Championships, Serbian swimmer Velimir Stjepanovic said that he has already moved over his two gold medals at the European Championships (LC) in Berlin earlier this year, and what inspires him, among other things.
Q. What are your targets and ambitions for the World Championships this year?
As I always say, first I have to make finals and then anything can happen. The competition is pretty strong in my events but I’ll still be going to try and get the medal.
Q. How do you feel about your European Championships medals and has it changed your approach or preparation for the World Championship in Doha?
I’ve sort of tucked that away as the new season has started and focused on what’s next for me. It didn’t really change my team’s approach to training. We were always going to try and do all the World Cup races as practice for swimming under difficult conditions. That is new, so we will see how this approach affects me at the World Championship.
Q. We all know diet is important in training and competing but for a swimmer what’s important and what can we learn from a swimmer’s diet?
Swimmers in general have a high calorie intake; I try to eat as healthy as possible though. It’s important because the difference in the way you feel in a session can change based on what you ate. A lot of swimmers will have a ritual as to what they eat on competition days so they know they are fully prepared.
Q. What keeps you motivated to stay as one of the leading swimmers in the world, and who inspires you?
My top two reasons would be that I like winning and I hate losing. But I also love swimming and want to inspire children to participate in sport in general because the atmosphere in any sporting event is amazing. I would say as a Serbian, obviously Novak Djokovic is an inspiration; he is someone everyone looks up to.
Q. You’re currently based in Dubai, but train with Serbian strength and conditioning coach Marko Bukovic. Does it help to have Serbian training coaches around you while you’re living away from home?
I was born in Abu Dhabi and have lived in Dubai my whole life, so I would say both UAE and Serbia are my homes. However, it really helps me keep my Serbian speaking level much higher as I spend more of my days talking in Serbian than English.
Q. How has working with Marko changed how you feel in the water?
Obviously Marko helped a lot when I had my back problems. His training coupled with gym time has made me feel much stronger, especially when it comes to my legs and explosive power. This showed in my dives during the European Long Course events.
Q. What is your main focus ahead of the Summer Olympics in Rio? Will you be focusing on the Freestyle events like the 200m and 400m that you’ve had recent success in?
I’m going to stick with my three events that I’ve done so far; trying to get A cuts for Rio in the 200m and 400m Freestyle, and the 200m Butterfly.
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