San Diego is home to many serious athletes, but not many know that Olympians reside here. Sara Isakovic is a competitive swimmer who raced in the Olympic Games in both ‘04 and ‘08. Her family is native to Serbia, but she left home to come to America after she graduated high school. Here she followed her dream of becoming one of the top swimmers in the world.
“It was my dream ever since I was little. I remember watching the Sidney Olympics 2000 on T.V,” Isakovic said.
Such aspirations drove her to start training from an early age. She started swimming when she was seven years old but first got serious about it at age fifteen when she made the Slovenia national team.
When she was seventeen she realized she was at the top of her age group. This helped her gain confidence to take her career to a professional level by traveling overseas.
When she came to the United States, she was excited to be accepted into Cal Berkeley. There she swam with athletes like Dana Vollmer, Caitlin Leverenz, and Natalie Coughlin, all of whom are Olympic veterans. In her college career she built strong relationships with her fellow swimmers.
“It’s such a beautiful experience because you have 25 girls next to you every single day twice a day and you kind of bond a little family,” Isakovic said.
In ‘04, she competed in the European Junior Championships where she achieved a best time in two of her events. In her 200 freestyle, she beat the European Junior record. Needless to say, this accomplishment pushed her career to bigger and better things.
In the same year, Isakovic debuted in the Olympic Games in Athens. Here she swam the 200 free once more and although she did not make her best time, she still considers it a great experience.
In ‘08, she swam in her second Olympic Games and won the first medal in history for Slovenia, which was a silver in the 200 free. When asked about the moment of her success, Isakovic said,
“I think it’s a moment where all your hard work pays off.”
After ‘08, Isakovic decided to let her swimming career die down. She now continues to lead a healthy lifestyle by swimming recreationally, but does not plan to return to the Olympics.
With the stress of being a serious athlete off her shoulders, she became interested in learning about the human body and began to study psychology. She is now a lab assistant for UCSD and deeply enjoys her occupation. Isakovic shares with us the connection between competitive swimming and the study of the brain.
“I love psychology in general because it’s such a part of our daily lives and the way we approach practice and how you manage that stress and pressure, say, at a meet. You know, it’s the way you approach it,” Isakovic said.
Sara Isakovic has inspired athletes from Dubai to California. Her successes both in competition and education are the results of her determination and confidence. As a final word of advice to swimmers everwhere, Isakovic says,
“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.”