As an eight-year-old child Sébastien Rousseau told his father that he wanted to swim in the Olympics one day. His father didn’t take him seriously, but never said so.
After all, at the time, Rousseau wasn’t even swimming competitively. But he worked hard to realise his dream, and by the time he was 14 he was breaking South African records in his age group, followed by open national records at just 16.
When Rousseau was 17 he held both the South African and African records for the 200m butterfly.
His childhood dream also became a reality and he was the youngest member of the South African Olympic team at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, where he swam in the finals of the men’s relay. He had to postpone his matric by a year and give swimming his all to compete in Beijing.
But the sacrifices were worth it.
When Rousseau matriculated in 2009, the University of Florida in the United States, where he is currently based, offered him a swimming scholarship.
He has excelled on the collegiate swimming circuit there, and has earned the honorary title of “All-American”, which is given to sportsmen/women who excel in that arena. Rousseau, now 23, also featured in the men’s 4 x 200m freestyle relay event at the 2012 London Olympics. He was the individual high points scorer at the US Open Championships last year, where he won four gold medals. Rousseau is currently in Glasgow, Scotland, where he’ll compete in his main event, the 400m individual medley, as well as the 200m butterfly and 200m individual medley at the Commonwealth Games.
“He places high expectations on himself,” says his mum, Vanessa, who is one of his most ardent supporters. “He’ll want to do the absolute best that he can.” — Fatima Asmal