Photo by Christian Bardrum
Sara won a Silver Olympic medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with the time of 1.54.97, being the second woman to ever drop below the 1.55 mark. She made history by being the first Slovenian to bring home a swimming Olympic medal.
Sara pursued her swimming career and studies at the University of California Berkeley, having success in both fields. As a 3 time NCAA team champion, she graduated with a degree in Psychology (emphasis on neuropsychology) and later earned her Masters degree in Performance Psychology in San Diego, graduating with honors. Her masters thesis focused on Aviation Psychology, exploring the effect of mindfulness training in airline pilots.
In between her undergraduate and graduate degree, Sara pursued brain research at University of California San Diego. The neuroscience laboratory explored neural mechanisms of optimal performance, resilience and stress coping mechanisms [MD. Martin P. Paulus’ OptiBrain Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, UCSD], in US Navy Seals, Marines and Olympic Athletes. As a co-author, Sara has been published in two research journals- Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience as well as Biological Psychology.
After her experiences in the U.S. she then moved back to Dubai (her childhood home), where she worked as an intern at the Emirates Airlines psychology department. There she built her own mental training program for airline pilots, and the same year presented her ideas on the TEDx stage. After taking on multiple projects around the world– joining a startup in Oslo and preparing 4 Norwegian girls to row across the Atlantic– she decided to return back home to Slovenia, where she now lectures and mentally prepares performers of various backgrounds for optimal performance within their field.
University of California Berkeley, degree in Psychology.
National University, San Diego, USA Masters Degree in Performance Psychology.
Recent work/volunteer experience
- Guest lecturer at Danish coaches conference + workshop with National Team swimmers (Copenhagen, Sept. 2018)
- Women’s Euro-Arabian North Pole expedition (April 2018)- Mentally prepared the Slovenian participant Natasa Briski for the challenge
- Performance Director at Fitsmind of Norway. Startup company combining mental and physical training- constructed mental training content for the app + mentally prepared Rowegians to row across the Atlantic (TWC 2017).
- Hamilton Aquatics (Nov 2015 – current day). Group and individual psychology sessions, optimizing psychological resilience of swimmers from 12-18 years of age- combining understanding of neuroscience, mindfulness and sports psychology
- Waves Swim and Sports Academy (March – Dec 2016). Group performance psychology sessions for young swimmers, 9-12 years of age + Swim clinics
- Mental training executed with multiple FlyDubai pilots and cabin crew (April 2016 – April 2017 )
- Private swim lessons, clients ranging from 3 to 55 years of age
Emirates Airlines Psychology Department- Internship (Aug 2014- Jan 2015)
- Individually constructed an aviation Pilot Resilience Enhancing Program (avioPREP), to optimize mental performance of pilots within high-risk cockpit environment
- Presented PREP program at TEDxLjubljana- ‘Do Pilots Need Mental Training?’ (November, 2015)
University of California San Diego- Research Assistant, Department of Psychiatry
- Research experience in a neuroscience laboratory, exploring neural mechanisms of optimal performance, resilience and stress coping mechanisms. MD. Martin P. Paulus’ OptiBrain Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, UCSD (June 2013 – June 2014)
- Implemented fMRI brain research with the aim understand and propose mindfulness training to improve performance in extreme environments
- Took part in shaping mPEAK- Mindful Performance Enhancement, Awareness and Knowledge- specifically for elite athletes (BMX National Team) to boost optimal performance in training and competition environment
- Initiated and completed a personal study on exploring resilience mechanisms in 10 Swimming Olympic medalists
- Co-author of research study submitted to Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience: ‘A Pilot Study Investigating Changes in Neural Processing After Mindfulness Training in Elite Athletes. August 2015
- Co-author of research study submitted to Biological Psychology- ‘When the brain does not adequately feel the body: Links between low resilience and interoception.’ January 2016
Research work featured in New York Times best sellers:
- “Endure- Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance,” by Alex Hutchinson
- “The Champion Mindset: An athlete’s guide to mental toughness,” by Joanna Zeiger
International and college swimming accomplishments
Ten-year Slovenian National Team member and four-year member of Cal Women’s Swim Team
- Olympic Silver Medalist, Beijing 2008- frst swimming Olympic medal won for Slovenia
- 3x Olympian (represented Slovenia in Athens 04′, Beijing 08′ and London 12′)
- European Champion in 200 freestyle, 2008
- European Championship Bronze Medalist, 4×200 freestyle, 2012
- 2x World Championships Finalist (05′ and 07′)
- Slovenian National Record Holder (100/200 freestyle, 100/200 butterfly)
- 3x NCAA Team Champion
- NCAA and Pac-12 Individual Champion in 100 butterfly, 2012
Activities and projects
- Rowegians- mentally prepared 4 Norwegian girls for the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge- 5000km row from Canary Islands to Antigua. Record breaking 56 days making them the fastest European women to cross the Atlantic + the only Norwegian ladies to row so far.
- TEDx speaker- Do Pilots Need Mental Training? (Ljubljana- November, 2015)
- SLOADO Ambassador- Fighting against doping in sport
- Junior Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science. Speaker at Future Education Conference in Rome (November, 2017)
- Guest Speaker at:
- FDI Awards Spirit Slovenia (Nov, 2018)
- Circular Change Conference (Maribor, May 2018)- What will it take to foster change?
- World Aquatics Development Conference (Lund, Jan 2018)- Time for new era of mental training within swimming world
- Centered Mind Conference- The Practical Neuroscience of Learning, Mindfulness and Human Potential (Ljubljana- November, 2017)
- Danila Kumar Elementary School- “Emotions, Boss and The Mindful Man” (basic neuroscience of mindfulness training for kids, Dec 2017)
- Canon U.A.E. Business Kickoff 2017 – Translating Passion into a Vision (Jan 2017)
- Faculty of Sports Ljubljana- Mental resilience for coaches (Oct, 2016)
- Business School Ljubljana- Why are challenges good for us? (Nov 2015)
Other news and media
Sports and the Mind – Podcast
Slovenian podcast on Apparatus.si
Article in Slovenian magazine Finance
Interview on Siol.net