Today we are honoured to connect Up-Close with Sebastien Rousseau, one of SA’s finest exports, highly acclaimed for his performances in the swimming arena in and out of SA. He is currently living in the USA but proudly swimming for SA at international meets.
Sebastien started dreaming big as a youngster of 8 years old, when he told his dad that he wanted to compete in the Olympics one day. Destined and determined these words ended up exactly what he got! He is a 2x Olympic Champion, who was the youngest member on team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, being a month shy of his 18th birthday at that time. He did brilliantly and went on to represent SA at the London Olympics 2012. Now his mind is firmly set on Rio Olympics 2016. He is humbled each time “to wear the special SA cap with our flag and to swim for the people of South Africa”.
Since young Sebastien has been an SA and African record breaker. This shining young champion has taken the centre stage for medals at many top world class meets representing SA at World Champs, Commonwealth Games and others. He holds the Mail & Guardian’s prestigious title of 200 Young South Africans. This they award to the few who are “young, courageous, optimistic, and brimming with talent”. In the US he has become a swimming force to be reckoned with. He has done brilliantly on the collegiate swimming circuit in the US, and has earned the honorary title of “All-American”. He accredits his many victories to his dedicated couches – Gregg Troy (USA) and Graham Hill (RSA).
The words that come to mind when I think of Sebastien is “joyful sacrifice”. For a youngster to leave behind his precious family, friends and homeland to go and pursue his dreams show great character and strength in a man. I could see from the interview below that he has such a deep compassion and genuine love for SA and her people. Sometimes this wonderful “switch” within us is only turned on when we step out of our borders and experience the world at large.
Read on to see what stirs this inspiring young man, and what his plans hold for the future……
You are admired all around the world for your swimming achievements. How did Sebastien Rousseau start out in swimming, and how did he become such a SA Swimming brand and household name?
Swimming was just the sport that came to me most naturally, I have always felt peaceful being in the water. I played all the usual sports when I was growing up, but when I realized I could make a big push in swimming I had to give up those other sports, and focus entirely on my swimming. The successes that I have had in swimming are due to the countless hours that I have put into the sport. No success comes without hard work, and I pride myself on being a dedicated athlete. I also have a great love for swimming which makes it a lot easier for me to go in every day and train for all those hours. It also helps that I hate to lose, which also drives me to push myself past any ‘boundaries’.
You are an Olympian, when you swam for your country, what did it feel like?
It was, and continues to be an amazing feeling. This is something I dreamt of as a young child, and now to be living my dream is better than anything I could have asked for. There is a huge sense of pride when you get to represent the people of South Africa, especially when you see the flag on your swimming cap before you go out to race.
You currently live in the US and graduated in Sports Management in 2014 – how did you experience that and what about SA did you miss the most?
It was a very exciting but also challenging experience, and one that I will always cherish, because it has taught me so much about myself as a person, and an athlete. The people here at the University of Florida are now family to me. I have a great relationship with the coaches, which has made the experience truly amazing. I have also made friends with people from all over the world due to athletes coming from other countries to UF, and that has been invaluable to create memories with these people I now consider family. However in saying that, the aspect of SA that I miss the most is definitely my family. My family made many sacrifices for me to get to where I am today, and I know that without them I wouldn’t have reached my goals. Whenever I am home, I make sure to cherish my time with them as my family is important to me. I also miss the SA food, especially braais. Being from Cape Town, I also miss the countless beautiful beaches that we have within a 15min drive.
Do you have any specific regimens or rituals in swimming? Maybe a particular diet / training method that can be partially attributed to your success?
I think the lessons that I learnt as a young swimmer, swimming with some much older swimmers, in how you can push your body despite what your mind might want to tell you when you are tired, have played the biggest roles in my success. My coach takes care of the training program and I trust him fully with that and I just come to practice looking to take on the challenge of whatever workout he might have planned for me.
How did you manage to fit in both sports and academics into your schedule?
While I was still studying, it could get pretty hectic managing it all. However we have a great structure here at the University of Florida to help athletes achieve in the classroom, which was a huge benefit to me. We were provided with tutors whenever we needed them and we had an academic advisor, who helped tremendously with the putting together of our schedules. Right now, I am solely focussed on my swimming, since I graduated in December 2014.
Beside your swimming what do you have a passion for?
I definitely have a passion for most sports, especially rugby which I had to give up once my swimming got serious. I still watch as much rugby as I can with the help of live streaming sport websites. I also have a huge passion for traveling. Through swimming, I have been fortunate enough to travel the world and experience so many different cultures which I love. I want to continue traveling throughout my life and see as much of the world as I can.
What do you do to relax?
I like to get out of the house and do anything active to relax. Reading is also very relaxing for me and helps me wind down after a long day.
Which athlete/ athletes inspire you?
The Awesome Foursome – Ryk Neethling, Roland Schoeman, Darian Townsend, Lyndon Ferns – who won gold in the 4x100m Freestyle Relay at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. These guys proved to me at a young age that South African swimmers could go and compete with the best in the world and come out victorious!
What is your personal favourite motivational quote?
“Fall in love with the process of becoming great.”
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Believe in yourself and never let anyone tell you something can’t be done. No one else can compete for you, so you have to have the belief in yourself that you can achieve the goals you set for yourself.
Living away from home / travelling extensively is a sacrifice, in this situation, what does it feel like? What grounds you – what becomes your touchstone to remind you that the sacrifice is worth it?
My love for swimming is what always brings me back to the realization that what I am doing is worth it when it might get tough sometimes. My family is also something that grounds me. My parents have taught me through lessons that what I am doing is special, but that I am no more special than anyone else on the earth in terms of living this life in a positive and humble way.
When an athlete hits a “hard / difficult patch” in their sports career, what goes through their mind at that time? What advice can you give other young-and-up-coming athletes?
This is possibly the most important part of an athlete’s career. This is when you need to have all the self belief in yourself and what you are doing, and with this self belief you will be able to rise from any “difficult patch”. It is also important to have a good support group, which will usually be your family and friends who will help you through tough times.
When you’ve had a tough/bad day, what lifts you up again?
Speaking to my friends and family. They will always put things into perspective for me if I’ve had a bad day. The reality in life and sport, is that things will not always go according to plan and the sooner you understand this, the easier it is to move past a bad day. In my life, and my sport, I like to focus on the things that I can control. There is no point in beating yourself up about something you can’t personally control, it is just a waste of your energy.
I’m sure you have many things going on right now, what’s to be expected next from Sebastien Rousseau?
Right now, all my energy is focused on my training and keeping my body in the best shape possible for the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in August. This in turn is preparation for the 2016 Olympics in Rio next year.
Thank you so much Sebastien for taking this interview. We would like to wish you all the best for the future and for your plans ahead. We look forward to following your exciting journey. Blessings!
Sebastien Live in Action here:
|Sebastien Bio / Stats|
|Name & Surname||Sebastien Rousseau|
|Date of birth||10 September 1990|
|Place of birth||Sandton, Johannesburg|
|Current City||Gainesville, Florida|
|Club||Gator Swim Club (USA) and Seagulls (RSA)|
|Coach’s Name||Gregg Troy (USA) and Graham Hill (RSA)|
|Out of Country events/ meets||2 x South African Olympian (2008 & 2012)2 x World Championships (2009 & 2011)2 x Commonwealth Games (2010 & 2014)|
|Favorite City||Cape Town (RSA) and Chicago (USA)|
|Favorite Song/ type of music||Consider Me – Prime Circle|
|Favorite Movie||Cinderella Man|
|Tertiary||University of Florida – graduated 2014|
|Tertiary degree/ diploma||Recreation, Leisure and Tourism – with a focus on Sport Management|
|Twitter and Instagram names||@sebdrousseau for both|