“Yeah, it was much tougher than juniors,” said 9-year-old Luka Mijatovic after winning seven gold medals, this time at the Far Western Championships in swimming. “The people from Southern California are strong and fast. For 100 back and 50 back, I had a really close race, but I managed to out touch this guy.”
Luka Mijatovic, a Yellow Bell at the Santa Clara Swim Club (SCSC), won the seven gold medals while swimming against the strongest 10-and-under youth swimmers on the Pacific Coast. During the meet, he also set personal best records in a number of events.
Luka Mijatovic says it was tough but he had a strategy and it worked.
“I just wait for them. They go really fast, they sprint the first 50,” said Luka Mijatovic. “I just manage to keep up with them for the first 50 and then they get tired so I catch up and then I pass them. That’s just what I do sometimes against really fast people that sprint to try to keep up with me.”
The wins were a fitting follow-up to his strong performance at the Pacific Spring Junior Olympics in March, where he also earned seven gold medals.
“What is really stressful for me is these kids that come from all over the Western coast are really fast,” said Lana Mijatovic, Luka’s mother. “When Luka gets nervous, I get really nervous for him.”
Swimming at his home pool in Santa Clara helped calm his nerves. So did talking to his coach, Mark Taliaferro.
“[Luka’s] coach is amazing in calming all of us down. He has this way of making sure Luka performs at his best level,” said Lana Mijatovic. “Luka has been with Mark for over four and a half years now and he just knows him so well and clearly he knows us too. He knows how to calm him down and get him in the right mindset and get him to perform at his best level.”
“Do you know what [Coach Mark] said? ‘Believe in yourself.’” said Lana Mijatovic. “[Luka] came out after 50 back and [Coach Mark] asked Luka, ‘Do you believe in yourself now?’ and Luka said, ‘Yes.’ It just warms my heart to have somebody supportive like that who can get through to [Luka] in a way that I probably can’t. It’s just really amazing.”
Luka will get a little time off before he gets back to training for the 10 and Under Championships at the end of the month.
He and his family spent spring break in Southern California visiting Disneyland and Universal Studios. Before leaving, his mother said she’d like to see him rest a little and have some fun, but she may have to fight Luka over it. You can take the kid out of the pool, but you can’t keep him out for too long.
“I didn’t go to practice [April 8] because our coach told us to rest,” said Luka Mijatovic. “When I get to Disneyland, I’m probably going to go to YMCA and swim a little.”
“I don’t think swimming fits into my plans,” said Lana Mijatovic with a laugh.