Interview with Sportswoman of the Year 2019 Felicity Passon | 04 February 2020
‘I did start small and with the help of my parents and coach Paul Fanchette, worked my way up’
Nicknamed the ‘Golden Girl’, swimmer Felicity Passon was a dominant force in the pools at both regional and continental levels in 2019 and it was no big surprise to see her voted as the country’s best female athlete of the year.
After her gold medals sweep in 2019, Passon was crowned last Friday by President Danny Faure, during the traditional Sports Awards ceremony, held at the NSC Multi-purpose Hall at Roche Caïman.
Passon started to make a name for herself at the 10th Indian Ocean Islands Games (IOIG) held in Mauritius in July where she won 11 medals – seven gold, three silver (one individual and two in relays) and one bronze.
She excelled again at the 12th African Games in Rabat, Morocco in August where she won four other medals, namely two gold, a silver and a bronze.
The exploit made her the first Seychellois swimmer to ever win a gold medal at the African Games.
Her two gold medals came in the 100m backstroke where she clocked 1 minute 02.42 seconds (1:02.42) and in the 200m backstroke in 2:14.55.
Her silver medal came in the 50m backstroke in a time of 29.17 seconds, while her bronze medal came in the 100m butterfly in 1:00.61.
Even at a young age, Felicity Passon is dreaming big and is very focussed in her quest to climb higher in the swimming hierarchy.
After her crowning, the ‘golden girl’, who left the country on Sunday morning, modestly agreed to answer some of our questions.
Sports NATION: Were you expecting to win the Sportswoman of the Year title?
Felicity Passon: I would not say I was not expecting it as I was still so nervous before the awards. But I did think I did enough work and produced good results to be able to fight for the title.
Sports NATION: How would you describe the 2019 season?
Felicity Passon: It was overall a really good season for me, my top competitions being the IOIG and the African Games. I am really pleased with how it went, especially having struggled for the last few years prior to 2019. So for me it finally came together and went my way, it made me so happy.
Sports NATION: What are your expectations this year?
Felicity Passon: This year I am expecting to qualify for the Olympic Games, and hopefully perform well at African level (at the African Senior Championships).
Sports NATION: Is defending Sportswoman of the Year title a priority for you?
Felicity Passon: I would not say it is a priority. I am really just focusing on performing to the best of my ability and dropping my times in my events. I do not have that many big competitions lined up for this year, and it is hard to say since I do not know what other athletes have lined up. But either way, I am still going to work hard to make everyone proud.
Sports NATION: What were the main difficulties you faced in 2019?
Felicity Passon: I was actually quite lucky that in 2019 I did not face too many adversities as compared to 2018, or the previous years. It was definitely tough not to have a coach leading up to the IOIG, or the African Games. It was really tough to train on my own, but fortunately I am quite a disciplined athlete, so I managed to push through, and with the support of the people, my family and everyone who believed in me, it was easy to stay motivated. Despite not having a coach I think the Seychelles swimming team exceeded everyone’s expectations. Prior to the African Games, I suffered from a bad case of tendonitis in my biceps and deltoids, but thankfully with the help of Gracie Narty and Dr Martin from the National Sports Council (NSC), I managed to swim well at the African Games. Without their help, I can easily say I would not have performed as well as I did.
Sports NATION: Why did you choose swimming?
Felicity Passon: It is just something that came so natural to me. I loved it from the moment I started getting in the pool when I was a baby. And I showed potential.
Sports NATION: What do you want to achieve in swimming?
Felicity Passon: I am aiming to attend the 2020 Olympic Games but my main goal will be the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. That should be my peak if all goes well. I am also aiming to perform just as well as I did this past year at the next IOIG in 2023. And of course, I hope to keep inspiring young ones in swimming and sports in general.
Sports NATION: Other than your hard work and devotion, who do you attribute your success to?
Felicity Passon: I owe most of my success to my family. They have made an unbelievable amount of sacrifices for me to be where I am today. They have given up their home in the past, their comfort, stability, holidays, just so I could attend the best schools/clubs for swimming. They obviously contribute financially but I am even more grateful for the emotional and mental support, something that plays a major role in sports. There were times when I was so down, when I was going through some really difficult times, emotionally and medically, and without them I would not have gotten through it. But there are so many people who have contributed to my success. The NSC, the Seychelles Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association (Socga), the Seychelles Swimming Association (SSA), the Seychelles government, the NSC medical team, my ex sponsors (Vijay, Intercontinental Trust, Hunt Deltel, La Digue Island Lodge), anyone who contributed no matter how big or small, I have always been grateful for the help. And most importantly thank you to the Seychellois public. The love and support makes my job 10 times easier.
Sports NATION: Being at such a young age, how do you handle all the success and fame?
Felicity Passon: Well I would not quite say fame, I think remaining humble is an important part of being an athlete. I will rather think of myself as being a role model rather than think of it as fame. I am really hoping that I can make an impact in Seychelles’ sports in the future. It does get tough sometimes, especially in terms of not having enough time to accommodate everyone, but I do my best to do so. I do like to please people and of course I appreciate the help from everyone so I do my best to give back, even when I am exhausted. And it is not so bad, especially since I love what I do.
Sports NATION: Other than being a good swimmer, do you think you have the ability to be a good role model?
Felicity Passon: Yes I do think that I could be a good role model to young ones in sports, especially coming from La Digue, where there is no swimming pool yet. So I really did start small and with the help of my parents and coach Paul Fanchette, I worked my way up. I have had so many opportunities to travel the world, and with swimming, it has opened so many doors for scholarships allowing me to further my education. I think I do show that I am determined, driven and disciplined, and I hope that I can inspire young ones to find something that they’re passionate about and work hard to achieve their goals. Dare to dream!
Interview conducted by Roland Duval