George Markovic is a lot like most people in that he isn't always enthused when the alarm goes off every morning.
"I put my phone, which I use as an alarm, on my bookshelf so I have to actually get up to turn it off," the OSU sophomore said. "That usually works well."
The difference between the Ohio State swimmer and most others is that when Markovic's alarm goes off at 5 a.m., it's so that the athlete can make his way to OSU's McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion to continue chasing his Olympic dream.
At the Toyota Grand Prix hosted by Ohio State in early April, Markovic posted a time of 3:56.93 in the 400-meter freestyle, good enough to qualify him for the Serbian squad for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, from August 8-24.
The only problem is one of citizenship. According to OSU men's swimming head coach Bill Wadley, Markovic's family fled the war-torn region made up of the former Yugoslavia. Markovic said his family went first to Germany, then to Australia, where he picked up English with an Australian accent.
Now, the athlete hopes that his citizenship request to participate as a Serbian in the Olympics goes through.
"We really didn't feel the need for us to get Serbian citizenship," he said of his time growing up. "Around this time last year, I saw that there was a possibility for me to make the cut, so I started looking into it. We're just waiting for a few things to come through as far as citizenship and the Olympic committee accepting me."
As for the chances of that, Markovic said, "I'm an optimist, but I think there is a big chance that they'll accept me. I'm really looking forward to it. I'm trying to keep positive as much as I can and act like I'm training for the Olympics."
To receive the go-ahead would signal the culmination of a lifelong dream, Markovic said. The Buckeye said he visualizes himself swimming in the event in Beijing to the point that he has "the whole video tape" in his head.
"Every day I wake up and it's basically one of the first things I think about," he said. "When I'm swimming, I think about it. In class, when I probably shouldn't be, I think about it as well. I might be thinking about it a little too much, but it's always been a dream of mine. To have the opportunity is pretty exciting."
Markovic is just one of many Ohio State swimmers who might have the chance to compete in Beijing. Fresman Itai Chammah already has qualified for the Israeli team. Teammate Niksa Roki is close to a spot on the Croatian team. A whole gaggle of Buckeyes will compete for spots on the U.S. teams at the June trials. Many are working at OSU, helping create a competitive spirit that pushes each athlete.
For those who will make it to China, the atmosphere will be that much more special knowing that their college teammates will also be making the trip.
"I've actually been talking to Itai a bit over Skype and he's always like, ‘How's it going? Are you going to Beijing? Am I going to see you there?' " Markovic said. "It's good having those guys always pushing you along, adding to that whole idea of being there. It would be really great if I can go and swim with all of my teammates. Maybe we'll do an ‘O-H-I-O' a few times around Beijing."
Training is tough, as evidenced by the 5 a.m. wakeup call each day. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal or a PowerBar, Markovic shows up at McCorkle for the beginning of the day's work.
"In the mornings, we usually do kicking our pulling," he said. "Get out, have breakfast at Mirror Lake Café, which is where all of the guys go and we kind of chat there. Then I head off to class. I'm a business major, so all of my classes are at Schoenbaum Hall. Then I grab something to eat, go to practice and then after practice do weights or dry land.
"Then I hit the books for a few hours and try to get to bed as early as possible. Maybe I throw in a few reality TV shows if I have time. That's about it."
Soon enough, the alarm rings and 5 a.m. is reality. The snooze button is no option. Another day on the road to Beijing is under way.