From being coached by his mother from the age of 12, to standing on podiums, taking on wave on his surf board, and still remaining humble and enjoying life along the way, Phillip Seidler is as driven and ambitious man who is writing his own story on his terms.
This is his #BraveStory
My name is Phillip Seidler and I represent Namibia in Open Water Marathon Swimming. I was born on the 25th of March 1998 in Windhoek, Namibia. I attended the Namib Primary School and completed my secondary schooling at Namib High School in Swakopmund. For my tertiary education I received a diploma in Business Management, Marketing – Institute of Information Technology [IIT], Namibia.
There were two reasons why I started swimming. The first was because at the age of four I could already surf before I could swim. Growing up at the coast, it is important to know how to swim and practice water safety in general. The second reason was at the age of five, I broke my arm. My mother took me to the pool for physio. Then her friend, June Owen-Smith, a well-known coach in Namibia, took me under her supervision and made me swim my first gala at age six. I enjoyed the challenge, and it was a great journey. She prepared me from an early age to improve my times and started taking part in South African Age Group Level 1, 2 and 3 galas. Unfortunately, Owen-Smith retired from swimming when I was just 12, and then my mom became my coach. With my victories and Namibian records in the long-distance events (1500 free, 800 free, 400 free) my head coach Janis Sterigiadis of Dolphin Swimming Club introduced me to open water swimming (5km and 10km).
After racing for the first time, I fell in love with swimming and haven’t stopped since. I was always a big dreamer with an even bigger heart and knew that I would take up swimming or surfing as a career. The ocean is my church and my favourite playground.
What I love about swimming is the tremendous fitness I get from it and the competitions I get to compete in. Swimming gave me a lot of discipline, determination, goal-setting skills, and mental strength. I love surfing, because in my free time I get to meet and connect with all my friends and test my limits on each wave, especially the big waves.
My family is very special to me because we are a very a tight-knit team, after all the years of swimming, going through the victories and losses together. My father always tried to financially assist me with the international races, my brother always supports and encourages me to be the best version of myself and keep having the champion mindset. My biggest role model is my mother Nadja Seidler for being my coach from the age of 12. I have great respect for her because she sacrificed eight years of her life to train me and always believed in me and my goals. It means the world to me to have her with me through out my journey. Without her, I would not have made it to the Olympics. I also respect her because she always makes it very clear that she would rather be playing tennis, instead of coaching me at the pool.
I currently hold all the Namibian Open records in the 400-meter, 800-meter and 1500-meter freestyle pool events. I have been dominating the Pupkewitz Jetty Mile for the past 8 years and hold the event record.
I also had my share of international open water competitions over the years, which gave me exposure to marathon swimming. I competed in the men’s 5km event at the 2017 World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, finishing 42nd. In 2019 I competed in the men’s 10km event at the World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju South Korea, finishing 32nd, and in Marathon World Series in Seychelles, finishing 33rd. I won the 10km bronze medal at the South African Open Water Swimming Olympic Trials in March 2021.
My most memorable race was the FINA Olympic Qualifier in Setubal, Portugal this was when I made a historic Olympic qualification. I was one of the swimmers that clinched an Olympic ticket, the first Namibian to ever do it, and opening a new sport code in open water swimming. It felt unreal when I qualified for Tokyo 2020. I prepared for eight years for that moment. Eight years of hard training, about 16km a day, three times a week in the gym had finally paid off. What motivated me through all this was that I had a goal and a vision to one day qualify for the Olympics. That drove me through the tough times.
Then I finanally got to live my dream, and I competed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where I was ranked second last in the 10-kilometre event which was position 25 out of 26 professional world swimmers.
Your dream becomes reality, when you stand on the Olympic stage with excitement to jump into the water, because you know once you touch the water, you officially become an Olympian! That feeling? Not even a billion dollars can replace.
Landing the 16th position at the Tokyo Olympics was an even bigger achievement for me, knowing I am one of top 20 marathon swimmers in the world. Not everybody can swim 10km in just under 2hours and knowing this was my biggest award for all the years of training solo, in my hometown Swakopmund, without any bursaries or financial support. Nevermind having enough money to compete in international events to gain more experience in marathon swimming. I was just a boy and surfer from Swakopmund with big dreams. Local and homegrown.
My dream was never to stand on podiums, but it always about the story I can write and the legacy I will leave behind.