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The Belarusian Bullet

March 26, 2013

by Layne Herdt (

Midseason additions don't always work out in sports, however Pavel Sankovich is not your typical aquisition. The two-time Olympian from Belarus joined the Florida State swimming and diving team in January and the Seminoles haven't looked back.

"I just sent a message to head coach Neil Harper," Sankovich said. "After three or four months when I did the paperwork I was here."

"The world is a small place," head coach Neil Harper said. "Swimmers that we had before that have Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian connections will say this swimmer is interested in coming to the States would you be interested in him and you don't really turn your nose up at a two-time Olympian that's got a great pedigree."

Despite the pedigree the coaches could not be sure how Sankovich would preform. Those questions were quickly erased at the ACC Championships where he broke two school records, won three events and was voted the meets top performer.

"He thinks on a high level having gone to the Olympics when he was young and again when he was 22," Harper said. "He comes in with that experience and confidence and our women's and men's teams really accepted him with open arms and knew if we made him feel welcomed, if we train with him, if we push him in training that would allow him to really do well at the ACC meet."

The meet was also Sankovich's first experience at a big university meet with hundreds of fans and teammates screaming and cheering.

"I had a lot of fun because I don't have a big team like I have here back home," Sankovich said. "It was my first big meet in a yards pool and first big University meet and it was really cool. I had not too bad of results and I will try to do better."

Sankovich enters the NCAA Championships seeded no worse than 10th in his three events and could become the first swimmer since 1999 to earn a top eight finish in multiple events. And since he has represented his country twice already at the Olympics the big stage of the NCAA meet is not expected to phase him.

"Of course it really helps me because the Olympics are such a big deal," Sankovich said. "After a meet like that it's easier to race in other meets."

If he does succeed, I think it's safe to say, this midseason pickup worked out just fine.

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