Gophers compete in world games

Swimmers and a tennis player participated in the 12-day event.

School records were broken over the weekend in what would be considered a swimming meet in unchartered waters. Belgrade, Serbia was the home of the 25th biennial World University Games where six Minnesota athletes competed July 1-12. Since the events inception in 1959, it has grown to include student athletes from 142 countries represented by more than 6,000 athletes. The 12-day athletic competition is a chance for athletes to measure themselves on an international stage against some of the worldâÄôs best. The international competition included representation by the Minnesota menâÄôs swimming and diving team, who sent five of its members to compete for their native countries in the games. Competing for Ireland, Israel, Norway, Canada and host Serbia, the five Gophers achieved personal, as well as school records, but found competition at the Games to be particularly challenging. Senior Ray Betuzzi helped team Canada to a bronze medal in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay. Betuzzi also set individual marks, breaking the Minnesota record in the 200-meter freestyle with a time of 1:49.68 ., good for an 11th place finish. The record-breaking performance by Betuzzi will drive the rest of the team to work harder to catch his time and set yet another school record, MenâÄôs Swimming Head Coach Dennis Dale said. âÄúHeâÄôs raised the level, and challenged everyone on the team to step it up, and see if they can be as good as he is,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs really good for our team to have people swimming as well as Ray has.âÄù While the University Games are a chance to compete for oneâÄôs country, successful results can also benefit the Minnesota program. Gophers performing at high levels in international competition helps recruit foreign swimmers to the Minnesota program, Dale said. âÄúI think long term when they experience success, their home country swimming federation is more apt to say âÄòOk, going to Minnesota is good,âÄôâÄù he said. Sophomore Karl Burdis , swimming for Ireland, turned in the best individual performance by a Minnesota swimmer. Burdis missed the final of the 50-meter backstroke by .02 seconds only to later swim the 100-meter backstroke. His previous best was 56.2 seconds, a time set in Texas that qualified him to compete in this event. At the World University Games, Burdis swam the same race in 55.02 seconds , good for seventh place overall. BurdisâÄô career best on the biggest stage of his career is a testament to the time and effort heâÄôs put in at the pool Dale said. âÄúKarl sees it as taking another step forward,âÄù Dale said. âÄúHeâÄôs now dropped 1.8 seconds, so from his standpoint, it gives him renewed confidence that the training he did the last 12 months has paid off.âÄù Career bests at the games are something Dale sees as a reward for months of hard work. âÄúThey become more confident athletes,âÄù he said. âÄúIt gives them renewed confidence that the training theyâÄôve been doing is helping them move in the right direction.âÄù Returning home WomenâÄôs tennis senior Tijana Koprivica also represented her home country of Serbia in the games. Competing in doubles and mixed doubles events, Koprivica said getting to go back and compete in SerbiaâÄôs biggest sporting event of the year was a great experience. âÄúI received great support being at home, which I didnâÄôt have the opportunity to experience before since IâÄôve been in Minnesota the last three years,âÄù Koprivica said. âÄúIt was really refreshing for me to be at home and play here.âÄù In the doubles event, Koprivica played with South CarolinaâÄôs Miljana Jocic, whom she faced last year in the college season, losing 8-5. They teamed up to advance to the second round, before falling to seventh-seeded Slovakia 6-2, 7-5 . In the mixed doubles event, Koprivica advanced to the second round after beating team Canada 6-4, 6-2. In the second round, Koprivica lost to Ukraine 6-2, 6-2. Despite not advancing past the second round, Koprivica sees the matches, which featured top four seeds all ranked in the top 200 by the WomenâÄôs Tennis Association, as a valuable learning experience. âÄúThey really helped me see how well they play, what I can work on and just gave me an opportunity to see players from all over the country,âÄù she said.