Olympic swimmer with a passion for sport

Safety remains a priority
Olympian Phillip Seidler, or Flippy as he is known to friends and family, managed to make his dreams a reality at the age of 23.
Iréne-Mari van der Walt
Iréne-Mari van der Walt

“From an early age, about six years old, I noticed his potential. It was always easy to persuade him to go to training. If it was anything to do with water - it didn’t matter if it was a pool or the ocean. He was already surfing before he could swim,” the mother of Olympic open water swimmer, Phillip Seidler, said.

Seidler ended his 10 km open-water race at the Tokyo 2020 summer Olympics just under five minutes after gold medallist, German Florian Wellbrock.

“It feels unreal. I am very honoured and proud to represent my country at the Olympics and that I achieved my biggest life goal at the age of 23,” Seidler said before his departure to the Olympics last year.

He tells of his beginnings in swimming as the result of an injury to his left arm.

“I started when I was six because I broke my left arm and lost 15% of my hand function. After two weeks, with my broken arm, my instructor told my mom that I was good in swimming and she wanted me to compete, so I swam my first competition two weeks after I first started swimming,” he said.

His mother Nadja, who formerly coached him after the retirement of his first swimming coach, believes that success did not merely fall into his lap, but was rather the result of consistent hard work from the young swimmer.

“Phillip is very determined, disciplined and he will never give up on his dreams. Even if he falls, he will get up and start again. He was a fighter from an early age,” she said.

Seidler’s fighting spirit shone through as he braved a shoulder injury he sustained during the annual Jetty Mile race.

Despite injuring ligaments in his shoulder after miscalculating his launch into the ocean, he still managed to emerge victorious and improve the record he set the year before. This particular win was his eighth consecutive one and served as worthy encouragement mere months before the Olympics.

The swimmer, however, opted not to aim for a ninth Jetty Mile win after his Olympic run, believing it is his duty to create a platform for other swimmers.

Less than three months after sustaining his shoulder injury, Seidler was back where he belongs and picked up his Olympic training where he left off.

“We had lots of challenges. His journey was a long battle with training grounds, very little support from his swimming federation and no financial support for international competitions. This challenged us to be even stronger. It also caused our relationship to go through thick and thin to show the world what we can achieve,” Nadja said of his Olympic preparations.

She added that the news of Seidler’s Olympic participation did not immediately feel real, but when she saw her son compete at this prestigious sporting event, she realised that he was living his dream.

“It took a while to sink in. My first reaction was being relieved and happy. But at the same moment, I was already worried how to get six weeks of training done in time before the big day at the Olympics.

“At the event, I was so relaxed and there wasn’t too much emotion. Watching him swim, I just smiled and realised Phillip is now an Olympian. All the hard work paid off for one big dream,” she said.

Seidler advised individuals hoping to partake in open-water swimming to be mindful of the forces of nature.

“Always respect the ocean. Remember that there are currents and big waves. It is very important, even if you can swim a bit already, to never swim alone because anything can happen,” he said.

Currently, Seidler is utilising his expertise in open-water swimming to teach beginner and novice swimmers to swim in open water while keeping ocean safety in mind.