WCIA — Ema Rajic has traveled around the world since graduating from Uni High and always takes a piece of Champaign-Urbana with her.
“It’s a place that I always hold really close to my heart cause that’s home,” Rajic said. “That was where the dream ultimately started.”
Rajic moved to Austin, Texas with her family shortly after graduating, then enrolled at Cal. She shined for the Bears as a freshman, swimming the breaststroke leg of the 400 medley relay team that won the NCAA title. Her 200 medley relay was runner-up, and individually, she finished 8th in the 100 breaststroke, setting a new school record in her first year in college.
“It was amazing year in so many aspects,” Rajic said. “I think getting to that atmosphere where people are older than you and you’re swimming next to Abbey Weitzeil and you see like Olympic ring tattoos everywhere, like talk about motivation.”
And that only helped propel Ema to the international stage. She spent last summer overseas, training in Croatia in hopes of making its national team. Both her parents are from the European country, and as a first generation American, she has dual citizenship.
“When I found out I made the team, I actually like I just cried for a couple hours,” she said. “I couldn’t believe I made it, I was just so physically exhausted and mentally exhausted as well. Shooting for a worlds team is something you don’t take with light of heart. So trying to wrap my brain around that, that was one of my goals, was unbelievable.”
Rajic swam at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships in South Korea, competing in the both the 50 and 100-meter breaststroke. She finished middle of the pack in both events but got valuable first time experience.
“That was almost like a trial prep almost, that’s what I like to put in my mind, because that was my first international stage,” Rajic said. “I’ve never been on that stage ever so // that definitely prepared me. Obviously shooting for a 2021 Tokyo now.”
Rajic will have that opportunity if she continues to improve her times. She swam a personal best in the 200 breaststroke as a sophomore, qualifying once again for the NCAA’s, before COVID-19 canceled the season.
“It’s such a big situation and it’s out of your hands,” said Rajic. “Canceling NC’s was for the best for everyone but it’s hard not to take something like that personally.”
Rajic is back in Austin now, continuing to work out and train for her junior year at Cal, and hopefully a trip to Tokyo next summer.