The Fast Lane

Former Olympic swimming coach Dejan Pejinovic leads the bespoke programme at the Swimming Centre of Excellence at GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail

The Swimming Centre of Excellence at GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail in Dubai has been operating for several months already. The Centre is run with the help of Hamilton Aquatics and designed to ensure swimmers’ individual needs are met. The bespoke programme is unique to the region and allows for students to effectively balance their busy training schedules with school requirements and commitments – meaning they benefit from expert swimming coaching, support and facilities, while maintaining their performance at school.

The man leading the swimming programme is Serbian Dejan Pejinovic, who has been coaching for the past 12 years and who, as a swimmer, achieved national-level results in his home country.

“I went to two Olympic Games as a coach and maybe five or six European and World Championships,” says Dejan. “I was also Federation Head of Development for Swimming and a high-performance swimming director in Serbia.”

Dejan firmly believes that, for general physical development and mental and psychological development, swimming is hugely beneficial. “It’s a base sport, because all movements we have in swimming are fundamentals and I believe the sport strikes the best balance between all anthropometric and physiological parameters that develop an individual,” he says.

Asked what kind of individuals and swimmers the Centre of Excellence is best suited to, Dejan points to “higher-level athletes”, but says the doors are open to any swimmer with the right attitude who is interested in developing swimming as the main sport in their life. He and his team will provide the full range of support to improve their results and take their performance to the next level.

“The main purpose is to provide full-day help to make swimmers’ lives easier,” explains Dejan. “It’s about balancing their swimming hours with their school commitments, adjusting their daily habits with regard to food, sleep and transport, and providing them with a more individualised approach to their development. Here, they get something more, including one-to-one work, tailored dry-land work, underwater filming work and more technical advice.”

What we have created here is a unique experience and opportunity for some of the best swimmers around the UAE. In partnership with Hamilton Aquatics, we’ve combined amazing facilities with some of the best coaching, allowing us to offer a unique approach to the curriculum.

Neil Matthews,
Principal/CEO, GEMS Wellington Academy

Consistency Is Key

So, what can athletes expect from Dejan and how does he approach his task of training and motivating swimmers? “We have to admit that swimming isn’t always exciting, so I focus on ways to make it more interesting for swimmers. My coaching style is liberal – I am open to doing different things during practice,” he says. “Swimming is really demanding and the training can be challenging. You have early mornings, double practice sessions and you have hard dry-lands – these are exhausting, so my purpose as coach is to make my students’ lives easier in the pool.”

Yet, despite the demanding training regime, Dejan advises swimmers to push through any discomfort and keep going: “After some time, the hard work will pay off. At a certain point you will see results. When you’re younger and in the development stage, there are many areas where you can improve, which is why I always urge students to remain consistent and fully commit to the work.

Having been a swimmer and raced competitively himself, Dejan knows what swimmers go through, what they have endured and how much they’ve invested before a race. He compares the race itself to the tip of an iceberg, as the majority of the effort and training is unseen by spectators. “Focusing your mind and preparing for a race is just one part of a much bigger story, because the training and everything that has led to the race is what most people never see.”

Dejan believes that the Centre of Excellence at GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail enables swimmers to strike the right balance between academics and sport, especially in such a high-intensity sport. “We are not talking about three practice sessions a week; we are talking about eight per week, five dry-lands a week. We are talking about spending at least 20 hours a week focused on swimming. That’s what it takes to be the best and that’s what the Centre of Excellence is offering.”

Standout Facilities

The facilities available at GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail are second to none. The school boasts two 25-metre pools, a performance gym, two multi-purpose sports halls and experienced coaching staff to provide everything swimmers might need.