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Up-Close with Emma Chelius

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Emma Chelius is one of SA’s greats in swimming, a homegrown champion girl who shows relentless commitment to her swimming and her academics as she pursues her final year at Stellies this 2017.

Emma, up to this point in her life has had a swimming journey of excellence and consistency which sets a great example for our youth. She has learned to really live out their family motto of digging deep even under the most stressful and challenging circumstances and she has reaped the fruit. She has the rich experience of being part of Team SA, proudly wearing her Green and Gold.  She is also a young lady that knows sacrifice and is a huge advocate of balance to ensure success. Because of these qualities I see a great future for her.

About her WHY she says “ I love to compete and have goals to strive towards. Swimming is a very big part of my life and it has helped to shape who I am today. I love the unity that swimming brings to people, being part of such a sport means being a part of a different world, where people from all backgrounds speak the same language”.


Athlete: Bio / Stats

Name & Surname Emma Chelius
Nick Name Em / Ems
Date of birth 2 August 1996
Place of birth Westville, KZN
Current City Between Cape Town and Durban
Height 178cm
Weight 62kg
Shoe Size UK 7
Club Maties Swimming Club
Coach’s Name Pierre de Roubaix
Favorite City Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time in Dubai – it’s a fantastic city.
Favorite Song/ type of music It changes all the time but I’m a big fan of Coldplay.
Tertiary Inst Name/ Year University of Stellenbosch

3nd year

Tertiary degree/ diploma B.Com Management Accounting


Instagram – @emchelius

Facebook – Emma Chelius

Community projects involved in Heaven’s Kitchen 3610 – a community based kitchen to help feed the homeless in Pinetown, KZN
Parents Names, siblings John, Michelle, younger brother: Gregory, younger sister: Sarah



Q:You are passionate and doing so well in your Swimming, tell me a little bit about how you started in swimming and your journey in the swimming arena up to now?

When I was 8 months old I accidentally fell into the pool and sank like a stone. My parents got a huge fright and my Mom immediately started teaching me water safety and enrolled me in swimming lessons. I have always really loved being in the water since then, and my childhood was filled with long summer afternoons playing in the pool. I started basic stroke correction when I was around 6 years old and began swimming for my school swimming team which I really enjoyed. I started competing for a club in age group galas at eleven years old and I clearly remember being so excited when I qualified for the KZN Schools team. At twelve years old I made my first KZN Senior National team, and since then it has been almost eight exciting years of racing at Level 3 Championships and Seniors. I have also been fortunate enough to represent South Africa at Zone V Games in Zambia in 2012 and Junior World Championships in Dubai in 2013.

Q: You competed at the SA Olympic Trials in April, wow, congratulations. How did you experience the meet and the vibe at the meet?

Thank you, it was an incredible experience! I always love racing at home in Durban and the organisers put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that these Olympic Trials were really memorable. It was so surreal seeing friends and teammates realising their dreams of qualifying for Rio, and it has been very special to watch them compete during these Olympic Games. Although it was disappointing that no ladies qualified in the pool, it was an outstanding meet with some incredible swims. Personally, Senior Nationals was definitely one of my best meets yet and I’m really happy with my results, especially placing third in the Women’s 50m freestyle. Its always a great feeling when the work you have put in during the season culminates to a result you are happy with. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, friends, coaches and teammates.


Q: What is the highest accolade that you have achieved in swimming and what is your greatest personal accomplishment?

My highest accolade so far has been representing South Africa at the Junior World Championships held in Dubai in 2013. It was an incredible honour to compete at that level and I learnt a lot. My greatest personal accomplishments, if I may name two, are medalling at SA Senior Nationals this year in the Women’s 50m freestyle and winning the 100m butterfly at Level 3 Age group champs when I was fifteen years old. The bronze medal at Seniors was a really exciting moment for me, especially in such a competitive race, but the 100m butterfly gold will always stand out in my mind as it was one of the toughest races of my life. In my family we use the expression “digging deep”, and I really had to fight hard in the last 10 metres to get my hands on the wall first!

Q: Why do you value and respect your coach so much?

I have huge respect for swimming coaches as I have tried my hand at coaching before, and found it to be very difficult! I have worked with many coaches during my swimming career and have learnt so much from all of them. My coaches at Maties – Pierre, Brett and Karin – have been incredibly accommodating during my move to Stellenbosch and helped me to settle into a new environment. They have fuelled my passion for the sport by personalizing my training so that its really enjoyable and manageable for me, and that has made a huge difference in my attitude towards training. I believe that if you want to have a successful relationship with your coach, it is vital to develop a mutual respect for one another. Where there is respect, there is also trust that your coach knows what is best for you.


Q: How do you manage to fit in both sports and academics into your schedule?

You learn to become really great at finishing everything on your “to-do list” last minute and working well under pressure! It is difficult to balance swimming, academics and university life, but not impossible. The swimming programme at Stellenbosch is really accommodating of lecture times and tests or exams, which helps a lot. I decided not to do an extended degree, so it does feel overwhelming at times but I have learnt to prioritise my work and my training. In first year I tried to be in a million places at once so that I wouldn’t miss out on any experiences, but by spreading myself too thin I became really sick and run down, and it impacted my training. I think being a successful student-athlete is about realising that you have to sacrifice some of the fun things for your sport, but in return you may be rewarded with the results you have worked for.

Q: Beside your swimming what do you have a passion for?

It sounds a little cliché, but I am really passionate about travelling. I have been fortunate enough to travel overseas on family holidays and I was definitely bitten by the travel bug at an early age. I really enjoy visiting new places and the unique experiences they have to offer. My boyfriend is currently working in Dubai and so I have been to the United Arab Emirates several times over the past 18 months to visit him. The Middle East especially is so different to South Africa and every time I have visited I have discovered more about the culture and people. Some of my best travel experiences have been while travelling for swimming, to Zambia, Dubai and Italy. Its very exciting when two passions collide.

Q: Tell me one thing about yourself that the world does not know 🙂 ?

I am in love with pandas!


Q: Favourite Bible verse?

“Be strong, banish fear and doubt; remember the Lord is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Q: What do you do to relax?

I really enjoy reading and spending my downtime with friends and family, but nothing relaxes me more than taking a nap!

Q: What’s your WHY ? 

I love to compete and have goals to strive towards. Swimming is a very big part of my life and it has helped to shape who I am today. I love the unity that swimming brings to people, being part of such a sport means being a part of a different world, where people from all backgrounds speak the same language. During my first year after high school, I started a small Learn to Swim school and taught kids 2-5 years old how to swim. It was so rewarding and showed what an impact one can have on young potential swimmers. I would like to set an example to other swimmers to always believe in oneself and to persevere through the ups and downs that one may face. I think that there is a lot of pressure on swimmers to perform well all the time and swimming can very easily become one’s entire life. I believe it is important to make sure that your life is balanced so that you can maintain the love and passion that you have for swimming, and avoid burning out.

Q: What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?

At this stage, I would say my biggest challenge is trying to decide in which direction to steer the next chapter of my life. I graduate university at the end of 2017 and there are so many things I would like to accomplish. I am trying to manage this challenge by doing a lot of research into my various options to see which option would be best. At the end of the day, my plan is to work hard, enjoy the present moment, and have faith that the next steps of my journey will work out as they are meant to.



Thank you so much for taking this interview. We would like to wish you all the best for your journey ahead. We look forward to following you as you go from strength to strength. Blessings!


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