Rousseau's experience pays off
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 9:07 p.m.
After not competing collegiately last season while he trained to represent his native country of South Africa at the 2012 Olympics, Sebastien Rousseau is back with the Florida Gators.
“Not only is he back, but he's a better model than he was before,” UF head coach Gregg Troy said. “The year out actually helped him because he swam internationally a lot. He still trained very, very well, and it just gave him a wealth of experience.
“Now we've got a guy who has senior experience, but he's only a junior. It's a real plus that we get that for two years.”
Heading into tonight's Senior Night meet against Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee in the O'Connell Center at 7, Rousseau has the SEC's fastest times in the 200-yard freestyle (1:34.77) and the 200- and 400-yard individual medleys (1:44.02, 3:41.69), and was named the SEC Swimmer of the Week after winning all three individual events (200 butterfly, 500 free and 400 IM) in which he was entered at the tough SMU Classic (Jan. 18-19).
Rousseau, who also competed at the 2008 Olympics, took a redshirt year while training in Gainesville for the 2012 Olympics alongside a group under Troy that included ex-UF greats Ryan Lochte and Conor Dwyer and former Michigan standout Peter Vanderkaay.
“Being in the post-grad group with guys like Ryan, Conor and Pete, I just can't say how important that was,” Rousseau said. “Those guys went to the Olympics and won medals, and that's where I gained a lot of experience, just training with them.”
Said Troy: “I think it took his confidence level up. He swam very well both at the South African trials and at the Olympics. He was the key to their 800 freestyle relay making the finals, which I don't think they expected.”
Rousseau has improved in — and out — of the pool.
“I have grown a lot, especially this last year,” he said. “I think again it goes back to that post-grad group teaching me toughness. I've tried to bring what I learned from that group to this group to see if I can help them in any way possible.
“With the program I came from in South Africa, I felt like I was really tough, but I've learned a couple of lessons here. It showed me that I could take my body to another level with all of these great coaches and athletes.”
His coach has seen a difference.
“He's not a very vocal guy, but he's become very much the team leader,” Troy said. “On a day-to-day basis at practice, he's forcing everyone to another level.”
Tonight is the last dual meet of the season. The No. 5 UF men (6-0, 5-0) can finish undefeated with a win over Tennessee (4-3, 2-0), while the No. 7 UF women (2-4, 1-3) hope to knock off the unbeaten, No. 4 Lady Vols (8-0, 3-0).
Admission is free.
“Tennessee at the moment might be the best women's team in the conference,” Troy said. “They just beat (No. 2) Georgia last weekend, which was a little bit of a surprise.
“On the men's side, we've got a chance to have another undefeated season. It's a good group of guys, and we'd like to use this as a springboard towards the conference meet (Feb. 19-23), so it's important.”