Seychelles teenager feels the inspiration


“Inspire a generation” is the official slogan of the London Olympics and Seychelles swimmer Aurelie Fanchette is the embodiment of it.

The 14-year-old, already a veteran of the 2011 world championships, Fanchette was the slowest competitor in the 200 metres freestyle heats on Monday but the time of two minutes 23.49 seconds was not what really mattered even if it was a personal best.

It may have been more than 26 seconds slower than Italy’s world record holder Federica Pellegrini, and she was still some 20 metres from the wall after everyone else in her heat had finished, but nobody was left in any doubt about her determination.

As the crowd roared in support, the cheers rising to a crescendo as she completed the final few metres, she got the job done.

“It’s great, it’s just really something to be proud of and as the English say ‘inspire a generation’,” she told Reuters afterwards, speaking with the confidence and composure of one much older.

“Being here among the best of the best, I felt really proud and excited. So many things are going through my mind but it’s just amazing being here among such great swimmers.

“It’s great knowing that there’s people who will always support you no matter your age. It really is inspiring for me as a 14-year-old swimmer, knowing that there’s a crowd out there that’s cheering for you and wishing the best in your race.”
Some of them will have been amazed as well as inspired.

Watching role models like American Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympian of all time with 14 golds and counting, is one thing. Watching someone so young racing in the same pool is another altogether.

Fanchette is one of two Seychelles swimmers at the London Games, the other being a 19-year-old male, Shane Mangroo, and both were invited as wild cards.

At home in the Indian Ocean island nation, a tourist idyll with crystal-clear waters lapping palm-fringed beaches off the east coast of Africa, she attends an international school with classes in English and French and has a choice of 50 and 25-metre pools to train in.

“I swim every day so being here just really pays off my hard work,” she said.

“These are my first Olympics and I really hope to come back. It’s something to look forward to and worth working for.

“I think it was just about going out there, having fun and enjoying myself.”

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