TEMPE, Ariz. — For many kids across America, competing in the Olympics is likely an impossible dream.
But for Valley native Katarina Simonovic, that nearly impossible dream will come true this month when she competes at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Simonovic was born and raised in Mesa and is a first-generation American. Her parents immigrated from Serbia while in their 20s and met in Arizona. During the Olympics, Simonovic will be representing her parent’s native country.
“Representing where I come from while training in the U.S. is the best of both worlds for me,” Simonovic said.
The Arizona State University senior and Barrett Honors College student will be competing in the 200-meter and 400-meter freestyle swim events. To qualify, she spent six days a week — for several hours a day — training. She not only swam, but ran and lifted weights.
Simonovic describes her trip to Rio as the culmination of nearly 15 years of hard work and dedication.
“A lot of people have poured energy and effort and support for so long. Family and friends have all known and accepted how much I’ve poured into what I do and how much love and passion I have for what I do,” she said.
“Seeing what I can bring back to teach my fellow teammates,” said Simonovic. “Being captain next year, I think it’s an awesome opportunity to really absorb everything I can at a world stage and see what I can bring home.”
They will play a big part in ASU’s goal to become an Olympic hub.
You can track Simonovic’s performance via the Olympic website. She is scheduled to compete in the 400-meter freestyle on Aug. 7 and the 200-meter on Aug. 9.
Note: This is part two of a five-part KTAR series highlighting Phoenix-area athletes, coaches and residents representing their countries in Rio de Janeiro.
Stay tuned for the third story on Wednesday, as Martha Maurer introduces you to a former Olympian and now ASU diving coach passing on lessons learned to the next generation of athletes.