Filip Demsar enjoys a challenge. The senior hurdler came to South Carolina from the small central European country of Slovenia, chose a difficult field of study, and has excelled on and off the track. He has earned numerous accolades for his athletics abilities and academic achievements, and most recently, he was named one of the Gamecocks’ two H. Boyd McWhorter nominees. With that, Demsar and equestrian Trinity Hammerschmidt will receive a post graduate scholarship to continue their education.
“It feels amazing, and it’s a big opportunity to be awarded the scholarship,” said Demsar, who will earn his undergraduate degree in physics in May. “Physics is probably not the most popular field for athletes. I’ve been interested in science forever. It just seems to make the most sense to me and would be the most fun. It’s not the easiest, but I wouldn’t be satisfied with an easy major because I wouldn’t have the feeling that I was really learning completely.”
Each of the SEC’s 14 schools nominates a male and female finalist for the award, which guarantees they will receive assistance to apply to their post-graduate studies. The SEC provides the league’s male and female McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Post-Graduate Scholarship recipients with a $20,000 post-graduate scholarship and will announce those winners next month. The 26 remaining male and female finalists for the award receive a $10,000 post-graduate scholarship. Each student-athlete is recognized for their work, service, and academic accomplishments, in addition to being recognized for their athletic ability.
“It just made sense to seek an environment that would allow me to grow more as an athlete.”
Demsar has found success on and off the track. He earned First Team Indoor All-America honors in 2021 and took home All-SEC honors in the indoor season last year and has been listed on several academic honor rolls. In his homeland, he owns the Slovenian U18, U20 and U23 records in the 60-meter hurdles and 110-meter hurdles and was on the 4X100-meter relay team that owns the Slovenian U23 national record.
“I came to South Carolina because in Slovenia I was basically one of the best hurdlers,” Demsar said. “I didn’t want to train alone and without anyone who was as fast as me. It just made sense to seek an environment that would allow me to grow more as an athlete. Being here and in the SEC, there are obviously a lot of really fast guys that I compete with. That allows me to elevate myself even more.
“I have a good coach at home, but the team and the environment here has definitely been a big factor for me.”
As he prepares for the SEC Championships and possibly NCAA Championships next month, Demsar is also thinking about his future on the track and will take some time before graduate school to try to qualify for the 2024 Olympics and compete for Slovenia.
“Next year I want to focus on track since it is an Olympic year,” Demsar said. “I’ve been dreaming about the Olympics ever since I started track when I was 14. One of the biggest goals I have is to compete in the Olympics. Before track, I trained in judo and basketball. I decided to stick with track, and it played out pretty well.
“What I like about hurdles is the unpredictability of it. It’s such a thrilling event because you really don’t know what’s going to happen in any given race. Even if somebody is the favorite, they can hit a hurdle and fall. It’s more unpredictable than a straight 100-meter run. I really like the thrill of that and because it is challenge.”
When he does go to graduate school and completes his studies in physics, he is interested in research, teaching, and possibly coaching. For now, he’s just thankful for another opportunity and more challenges.
The McWhorter Scholarship recipients are chosen by a committee of Faculty Athletics Representatives from the 14 SEC institutions. They will be honored by the league membership at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Florida.