City’s Sebastien makes a big splash
CAPE Town Olympic swimmer Sebastien Rousseau trained all year in the pool but still managed a 75 percent aggregate for matric.
Rousseau, 19, from Bergvliet has already achieved more than most young people his age but is now set for even bigger things. While many matric pupils were still sleeping on Thursday morning, Rousseau had already been training in the pool for well over two hours.
The Abbotts College pupil has been swimming professionally since the age of nine and juggled training, competing and school in what he described as the “toughest year” of his life.
He managed to maintain a 75 percent aggregate throughout last year and passed his matric exam with the same aggregate.
Rousseau said balancing school and swimming was a challenge. “It was quite a thing to do but I never go easy on myself on anything. Swimming was never a problem, I just had to make sure I got all my work done and stayed focused.”
He was originally meant to do matric in 2008. However, he took 2008 off so he could compete in the Olympics in Beijing.
Rousseau started his high school career at SACS High School but moved to Abbotts College in Claremont so he could take breaks to swim at the highest level.
Rousseau was ranked eighth in the world for 2009 and has held the 200m butterfly African record since 2007.
While he has been training hard for years and steadily moving up the swimming ranks, Rousseau has kept his eye on the best place to study.
He was first approached by the University of Southern California and offered a scholarship but decided to look at other universities in the US.
“I want to go into sports psychology or sports management and I approached a few schools who were all interested in me. They offered me scholarships as well and I went over last year and chose the University of Florida.
“The weather played a big role in my decision, they’ve got a good climate but it was mainly the coach and the training programme.
“They also have a high calibre of swimmers that I will be training with.”
Rousseau said he chose to study in the US because of the high level of competition.
“It will get me used to racing to be part of the Olympics and big competitions, it will prepare me well.”
Many matriculants might still find themselves confused about their future but the relay swimming team which won gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens sealed Rousseau’s fate.
“That’s when I decided to swim professionally; the guys won gold and it just proved that South Africans can compete with the best in the world. That was an inspiring moment for me.”
At the age of 12, Rousseau made it into the Wester n Province team and at the age of 15 made the national junior team. In 2007 he joined the senior team and represented the country at the Olympics a year later.
This weekend he flies to Florida, where he will be studying for the next four years at least. he will fly back and forth to qualify for the Commonwealth Games in India in October. If he gets into the Commonwealth Games, his next goal is to qualify for the 2010 Olympic Games in London.
“I will study for between four and six years, depending on the amount of time I take off to train and compete.
“After the 2012 Games, I am going to take it one year at a time and see whether I will go to the top with swimming but I need a good sponsor for that. Otherwise, after getting a good degree, I would want to come back to South Africa and do something to give back.”
SENSATION: Sebastien Rousseau, 19, from Bergvliet, trains in Rondebosch earlier this week. He was one of thousands to celebrate a matric success this week and is flying to the US where he will study and train among the best in the world.