Serbian Star, Velimir Stjepanovic, Hungry for A Medal in Rio

Photo Courtesy: Maria Dobysheva


Editorial Coverage Sponsored By FINIS

By Seren Jones, Swimming World College Intern

“When we got back to Dubai, Chris sat me and my mum down and said that if I listened to him and did everything he said, I would make the 2012 London Olympic Games. So from then on, I began training properly.”

Velimir Stjepanovic has had his eyes on the prize ever since. In fact, one could argue that he earned his prize as he not only attended the London 2012 games, but he also became a finalist in the 200 butterfly, touching sixth, making him the youngest swimmer in the final at the age of 18.

Such a magnificent result has only made the 22-year-old hungry for more.

With the 2016 Rio Olympic Games less than a year away, the Serbian swimmer is returning to the world’s fastest meet as a wiser, more experienced athlete.

“I want to do better and place better than I did in London,” he said. “My goal is to take it one step at a time. My first goal is to get into the final, and then give it all I’ve got. That would also mean doing personal best times in all three events (100, 200, 400 freestyle) that I’ll be swimming.”

Although born in Abu Dhabi and raised in Dubai, UAE, Stjepanovic’s parents are from Bosnia. Despite having dual citizenship in Bosnia and Serbia, the decision to represent Serbia was a splash in the pool for the Olympian.

“It was a natural choice for me. I am Serbian and am very patriotic about my country, I’ve always loved it so there was never a doubt as to which country I’d represent,” he explained. “Serbia is also more developed when it comes to swimming, especially due to Milorad Cavic’s results over the past years – swimming has become very popular in Serbia.”

Despite attending his second Olympic Games, Stjepanovic was originally a well-rounded athlete. But when Stjepanovich was 12, he began training with his current coach, Christopher Tidey, and swimming quickly became the priority.

Becoming An International Success

Photo Courtesy: Pamela Roberts

Photo Courtesy: Pamela Roberts

Just two years later, Stjepanovic was an international medallist.

“When I turned 14, I became a part of the Serbian Junior Team, and competed for Serbia for the first time at the European Youth Olympic Festival, where I won gold in the 100 fly and silver in the 100 freestyle,” he said. “That, in my eyes, was where my career started.”

And so, the success continued.

In 2010, Stjepanovic earned a gold and a bronze at the Singapore Youth Olympic Games. In 2011, he won two golds at European Juniors on home turf in Belgrade, Serbia. The following year, he placed sixth in the 200 butterfly final at the London Olympics. By 2013, he grabbed an additional three gold medals at the Mediterranean Games in Mersin, Turkey, and in 2014 he captured two golds at the European Championships in Berlin, Germany.

Harmony in the Swimmer-Coach Relationship

STJEPANOVIC Velimir Gold Medal 400m Freestyle Men Final 32nd LEN European Championships Berlin, Germany 2014 Aug.13 th - Aug. 24 th Day06 - Aug. 18 Photo G. Scala/Deepbluemedia/Inside

Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala

Evidently, Stjepanovic and Tidey make a good team. The national record holder has been training under Tidey for a decade now, and swims at Hamilton Aquatics in Dubai. When in Serbia, Stjepanovic trains with the Partizan Swim Club in the nation’s capital of Belgrade.

“Chris and I have been working together for ten years now,” said Stejepanovic. “What inspires me the most about Chris is his ability to run his company, Hamilton Aquatics, and still give 100 percent at training as well as his attention to detail toward technique in training.”

Tidey and Stjepanovic have a mutual understanding of each other, which only strengthens their relationship, and ultimately Stjepanovic’s success in the pool.

“We have managed to achieve a lot through his excellent work ethic, trust and respect,” said Tidey, who was formerly the head coach at the City of Cambridge, England prior to Hamilton Aquatics. “The relationship has developed over the years to a point now where the input into the overall objectives and the process to attain success are much more equal than when he was an age group or youth swimmer. Velimir is a very in-tune swimmer. He understands his body well and is intelligent enough to make sensible suggestions in regards to training.”

Although Stjepanovic invests the majority of his time and effort into the sport in an attempt to achieve personal satisfaction, not only is he swimming for himself, but also for his nation.

“Serbia is a very small country, so to medal at an event as huge as the Olympic Games would be amazing, especially for the sport of swimming,” said the mid-distance freestyler. “Obviously the hours of training that swimmers put in is enormous, so medalling would be a huge reward for all those hours.”

Be sure to keep an eye out for Velimir Stjepanovic at this year’s Olympic Games. If he earns a spot on the podium, not only will he further promote the sport in Serbia, but he will also be representing the minority nations that are slowly, but surely beginning to catch water.

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8 years ago

Such a nice interview. Thank you, Velimir, you make everyone in Serbia so proud of you. 🙂

8 years ago

Oh, and I wish you all the best at the next Olympic Games and hope you’ll win a medal in Rio and make your wishes come true! Keep up the good work!

8 years ago

Ajdeee Veljoo

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