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Duje Draganja - Croatian Athlete and Olympic Swimming Medalist

Updated on March 29, 2012

World Championship Swimmer

Career Bests

In high school, Duje's best times were:

50 meter Freestyle - 22.69

100 meter Freestyle - 49.67

His best career times are:

50 meter Freestyle - 19.17

100 meter Freestyle - 41.26

100 meter Butterfly - 45.72

Boy Next Door

Duje (Doo-yeah) Draganja (Draag-anne-yeah) is a young man from Split, Croatia. Born on February 27, 1983, he won the silver medal in the 50 meter freestyle in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

While attending Vladimir Nazor High School in Split, he was well on his way to a great swimming career. There, he broke numerous Croatian national records and became the captain of the Croatian Junior National Team. While still in high school, he won seven gold medals at the European Junior Championships where he continues to hold two Junior World records, and four European Junior Records.

The War for the Homeland in Croatia (Domovinski Rat) put a cramp in Duje's training schedule. His missed a year of school and more than a year of training. The pool that Duje used to train in in Croatia is to this day, covered with bullet holes.

2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia

Duje debuted as a newcomer, reaching the semifinals of the 100 meter Men's Freestyle sprint race. When the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney ended, Draganja went to university in the United States.

UC Berkeley Swim Team

Like many other foreign born athletes, he went to college overseas to establish himself in international sport. An exceptionally good swimmer and excellent student in high school, he chose the University of California at Berkeley.

When asked why did he choose Berkeley, he said, "because of its great academic reputation" and "to help this team win an NCAA title".

While at Cal, he became the world record holder in the 100 meter freestyle with a time of 41.49, which was set in 2005. He was also the winner of ten PAC-10 Swimming Competitions and eight NCAA National Championships, breaking four national records in the process.

While swimming at Berkeley, he met his long term trainer, Mike Bottoms, who coached the 6'5" swimmer through his amateur career through the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

Student and Swimmer

Duje Draganja when he was attending college at UC Berkekey and swimming on the Cal Swim Team.  There, he majored in Slavic Languages and Literature.
Duje Draganja when he was attending college at UC Berkekey and swimming on the Cal Swim Team. There, he majored in Slavic Languages and Literature.

Second Olympics at Athens, Greece - 2004

In he 2004 Olympics at Athens, Duje was one of five medalists for Croatia where he received a silver medal for the men's 50 meter freestyle. Missing the gold by only .01 second, the race was won by his training buddy, Gary Hall Jr.

At Athens, he also honorably finished sixth place in the Mens 100 meter freestyle. That same year, he was named Athlete of the Year in Croatia. With the sizable number of athletes in Croatia in spite of its population of 4.5 million (2001 census), this was quite an honor.

When competing in the Athens' Olympics, Duje created quite a stir for wearing his "lucky" U.C. Berkeley swimming cap during the competitions. According to Olympic rules, he should only wear the cap of his country, Croatia. With two races left to swim, he continued wearing it, since he had already swam the majority of his races with his old college team cap, reasoning that if he had not been disqualified already, he wouldn't be now.

Swimming with no breath

Winning Ways

In the video above, trainer Mike Bottoms explains that the key to winning in shorter races like the Men's 50 meter swims is to learn how to swim the length without stopping for air. With time and practice, swimmers can become confident at swimming the entire 50 meters without stopping for air. Some of their training techniques are shown in the 1.5 minute video clip above.

Life after University

The Race Club in Florida

After college, Duje Draganja and some of his teammates, including coach Mike Bottoms, at the Race Club in Florida, a competitive swim club focusing on sprinting.

Qatar Job Offer

In August 2005, he upset the Croatian public by accepting a lucrative offer to swim for the country of Qatar. He was expected to assume citizenship there. At first, he went along with the offer, but by February 2006 he had already renounced his decision and made it clear that he would remain a Croatian citizen.

Gold medals won at FINA

In April of the same year, Duje won a gold medal in the Men's 50 meter Freestyle at the FINA World Swimming Championships - the only medal won for Croatia.

Two years later in 2008 at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Manchester, England, Duje went home with the gold, this time creating a new world record - 20.81 for the Men's 50 meter freestyle. He won the Bronze Medal for the Men's 100 meter freestyle at the same event - all for Croatia.

Duje now trains with Swim Team Dubrava in Zagreb, Croatia.

Juice Commercial

Winning the Men's Swim Record at FINA in 2008

Long denied, long-term love with attractive singer

Duje's love, Natali - more than five years together
Duje's love, Natali - more than five years together

Athletic Family

Father and Mother - Soccer and Volleyball

Duje's family is from Split, Croatia, where he was born and raised. His parents are Petar and Maja. Duje Draganja's father Petar was a soccer player for the former Yugoslavia. His mother Maja (m'eye Uh) was a volleyball player. Athletic ability definitely runs in the family.

Music Girl


Duje dates long time girlfriend Natali Dizdar, a popular singer in Croatia. They first began dating in 2006, but the relationship was kept a secret until fairly recently.

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