x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Serbian swimmer throws himself in at deep end for Olympic qualification

Dubai-based Stefan Sorak left home and made sacrifices in a bid qualify for the London Games on Sunday.

Stefan Sorak, left, left his native Serbia to train in Dubai.
Stefan Sorak, left, left his native Serbia to train in Dubai.

DUBAI // Given the diverse nature of the UAE's population, it is perhaps not so surprising the country plays host to an enclave of elite Serbian swimmers. There may be only two of them, but while the group may be small in number, they are rich in talent.

Stefan Sorak moved to Dubai full time last year, after initially meeting Velimir Stjepanovic, the UAE-born Serbian swimmer who is now his colleague on the national team, at an event in Helsinki in 2009.

Both aspire to reach the Olympic Games this summer, via the test event in London this week. At the very least, Sorak is hoping for some tangible signs of progress as he has much riding on it.

"From the start of this year, the Serbian Olympic committee have paid for me to be here, for the first three months, but I guess they are expecting some results if they are going to continue to pay for me," Sorak, 19, said.

"Life in Dubai is very expensive, and for the first four months I didn't have help from the Olympic committee for living here. My dad was paying for mostly everything."

As if the pressure of trying to earn a berth at the Olympics was not enough to bear already.

"Sometimes when I have a really bad day or bad session, I think about that," he said.

"I don't come from a really rich family and they are trying to help me out with this, so I have to give them something back.

"I am trying my best on every session, reminding myself how close it is. I just want to participate, to see how it is, to feel the pressure of the Olympic Games."