Discovering the Journey of Two Budding Swimmers: Karlo Širola and Erik Hadžić

Both Karlo Širola and Erik Hadžić, hailing from the coastal city of Rijeka, Croatia, found themselves drawn to the allure of competitive swimming from a young age. For Karlo, the call of the water was irresistible, shaped by his seaside upbringing and a natural affinity for swimming from a young age. Similarly, Erik’s early love for immersing himself in the sea sparked the curiosity to explore swimming as a sport, leading him to the pool at the age of four, where he has honed his skills for a decade. These friends and swimming colleague went to last year’s Swim Camps in their hometown and these are their insights.

What inspired you to start competitive swimming?

Karlo: I was drawn to competitive swimming by a love for the water and a desire to challenge myself. Growing up near the sea, I felt a natural affinity for swimming from a young age.

Erik: From a young age, I enjoyed swimming in the sea, so we thought it would be cool to try swimming as a sport. I started going to the pool when I was 4 years old, and here I am, training for 10 years already.

What's your favorite discipline and why?

Karlo: My favorite stroke is definitely the butterfly. There’s something special about the rhythm and coordination it requires, and the feeling of flying through the water is unmatched.

Erik: I love all swimming techniques equally. Some of them (like butterfly) used to be harder for me, but with training, I gained strength, and now I truly love them all.


Yet, amidst the exhilaration of competitive swimming, challenges abound. Both athletes acknowledge the mental fortitude required to navigate the rigors of training and the pressures of high-stakes races. Whether overcoming self-doubt or pushing through physical fatigue, Karlo and Erik recognize that the journey of a swimmer extends beyond the confines of the pool, forging resilience and fortitude in the face of adversity.

How do you mentally prepare yourself before a race?

Karlo: I have a routine that helps me mentally prepare before a race. I visualize myself in each part of the race, from the start to the finish.

Erik: At the competition, before the race, I sit alone with my thoughts and think about the race and how I could swim it the best. I don’t use my phone at competitions to be mentally relaxed.

How has swimming positively impacted other areas of your life?

Karlo: Swimming has had a profound impact on various aspects of my life. It has taught me discipline, perseverance, and time management skills.

How do you cope with setbacks or disappointments in swimming?

Erik: When I don’t swim well, I like to be alone and in peace to think about where I went wrong and what I could have done better. Of course, tomorrow is a new day, and with even greater desire, I go to training.


How do you balance school, training, and social life?

Karlo: Balancing training and schoolwork can be challenging. I make sure to create a schedule that allows me to dedicate enough time to both swimming and school.

Erik: I’m focused and active in school, so I need less time for studying. Training is, of course, the most important to me, and time for hanging out with friends is only on weekends.

Can you share a memorable moment from your competition career?

Karlo: One of the most memorable moments for me was during a relay race. In the final leg, I dove into the water, knowing that my teammates were counting on me.

Erik: I’m definitely proud of the success achieved at the last junior national championship in short pools (Feb 2024), where everything fell into place, and both me and the whole team PK Primorje swam excellently.

Reflecting on their journey, Karlo and Erik credit their participation in swim meets, such as the Swim Camp in Rijeka, for fostering their growth and development as athletes. These immersive experiences have provided expert coaching, invaluable training sessions, and exposure to new techniques, refining their skills and broadening their horizons. Moreover, the opportunity to interact with fellow swimmers from diverse backgrounds has enriched their journey, fostering meaningful connections and lasting friendships that transcend geographical boundaries.

To finish of, here are some wise words from Erik to other swimmers (but also anyone else reading): „Always give your maximum, both in training and in competition, and always believe in yourself.“