ATHLETE OF THE MONTH: Junior Sebastian Cai, Swimmer

The Oracle: What inspired you to start swimming?

Sebastian Cai: I started swimming after the 2008 [Beijing] Olympics when I saw Michael Phelps win eight gold medals. I was in China at the time, and I really enjoyed watching him and I really wanted to swim, so I started swimming as soon as I got back from the Olympics.

TO: What is the biggest life lesson you have learned from swimming?
SC: The biggest life lesson I’ve gotten from swimming is that success does not come easy, and the harder you work, the better you do. Sometimes people will do well for a race or two if they do not work hard, and sometimes people will work really hard and not have a good race, but in the end, the harder you work the better you are.

TO: What’s your favorite part about swimming?
SC: My favorite part about the sport of swimming is racing. The water doesn’t care about how you feel or if you’re tired. It’s up to you to win and when there’s a guy next to you, you know you have to beat him. It is the best just to chase him down and try to win.

TO: What’s your all-time favorite memory from swimming?
SC: My favorite memory from swimming is from last year. Our team made States, and we traveled as a team and our relay placed eighth, which wasn’t the best, but it was pretty good. We were also one-tenth of a second away from breaking the school record, and [Gunn] ended up placing third in all of the state, which was pretty cool.

TO: What do you like about Gunn swimming in particular?
SC: I really like the coaches and my teammates and just the atmosphere of Gunn swimming. We have a legacy of being a pretty strong swim team in the past few years with the girls winning Central Coast Section (CCS) in 2012 and the guys winning a couple years ago. I really think that we can swim fast and win CCS this year for both girls and guys.


TO: Which person has been the biggest inspiration and role model for you as a swimmer?
SC: My swimming idol is Michael Phelps—he’s obviously the greatest swimmer to ever live—but one of my personal heroes is Michael Lincoln, who graduated from Gunn last year. He’s the hardest worker I know, and he now swims in college and will definitely do great things in swimming.

TO: What are a few of your pre-race and pre-meet rituals?

SC: Before some of my biggest races I will prepare for weeks in advance just thinking about one race and watching old videos of my idols swimming those races. I also like to visualize my race and I have a small ritual behind the blocks and make sure to stay loose by stretching and listening to some hype songs.

TO What advice would you give to anyone who is considering trying out swimming or has just started swimming?

SC: I would say, “Just try it!” It might not be all fun and games all of the time, but in reality if you want to be good at anything you have to be willing to work hard. A lot of people say they don’t want to do swimming because it’s boring, but I can tell you that once you get on the team and make a bunch of friends, you enjoy going to practice every single day, sometimes multiple times a day. It’s a great sport.

TO: What do you believe is the biggest challenge for you as a swimmer?
SC: The biggest challenge for me as a swimmer is to stay focused every single day. Some people don’t think it’s a sport and some people look down on it, but I think it’s definitely one of the most challenging sports you can do, and I just have to remind myself everyday that I have to keep working harder.

TO: What are your future plans for swimming?
SC: My goals are to swim in college in Division One. I want to make it to the Olympic trials in 2030.

Compiled by Eric Epstein