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Jaukovic, Boy From War-Torn Background, Sets WR

Oct 25, 2008  - Craig Lord

Matt Jaukovic, a Montenegro-born swimmer who took Australian nationality of late, has broken the 50m butterfly short-course world record, in 22.50, at the Sydney round of the FINA-Arena World Cup.

At his first meet for Australia, Jaukovic shaved 0.01sec off the previous standard, which had stood to Brazilian Kaio Almeida. The 22-year-old law student picked up $US11,500 in prize money.  "It is going to be different now because before I was an underdog and now people are going to be after me," Jaukovic told the assembled media in Sydney after his race. "That is a different perspective but I think I can handle it."

Jaukovic moved to Australia three and a half years ago to study at Sydney University and improve his swimming. His parents still live in Montenegro but are hoping to catch up with him at the Moscow round of the World Cup.

Jaukovic said he had been closing in on the world mark and was delighted to have done it in Sydney. "I think this was my fifth go at it, including the nationals and I am quite happy to have got it at home," he said.

In 1999, following the NATO bombardment of neighbouring Serbia, Jaukovic, then 13, travelled with a family friend on the ferry from Montenegro to Bari in Italy. He continued his adventure alone, taking a trip to Milan and from there on to Sydney, where his aunt and uncle awaited him. He spent three months Down Under.

Already a talented swimmer, his move to Australia put him on course for big things in the pool. "I was always an individual, I knew what I wanted to do," Jaukovic told Nicole Jeffery, of The Australian. After he finished school he returned to Australia in 2005 to study law, following a family tradition, and then economics at Sydney University, where he was guided in the pool by coach Steve Alderman.

Jaukovic, a side-breather in the mould of Olympic champions Mel Stewart (1992) and Denis Pankratov (1996), was granted Australian citizenship last January. He recognises that his success must now be converted to the 50m pool if he is to take his career further and earn full Dolphin honours. "That's the challenge ahead at the moment," he told Jeffery. "The speed is there, I have the stroke and I'm now doing the gym work, but I only started that last year."

Alderman has said that his talented charge is better at short-course and has a way to go before he can convert. The early test will come at trials for Rome 2009 next March.

Elsewhere in Sydney Hackett-feller and Olympic 1,500m freestyle champion Oussama Mellouli, the US-based Tunisian, continued his dominance of the cup series with three victories: 400m freestyle (3:40.49); 100 and 400m medley (53.84 and 4:06.47).

Nick D'Arcy, who was kicked off Australia's team for the Beijing Games to answer still pending serious assault charges following a late-night bar incident, returned to the pool to share the 200m butterfly title. D'Arcy went out hard and just held on as fast-finishing fellow Aussie Chris Wright  for a tied triumph in 1:53.37.

Results in full