Oreoluwa Cherebin started taking swimming lessons when she was just 2-years-old. By the age of 7, she was already taking part in competitions and has gone on to represent Grenada at regional and international events.
In 2014 alone, in addition to studying for 12 CXC subjects and playing an active role in her school’s extracurricular activities, Oreoluwa also took part in ten swimming championships, including the Commonwealth Games and the OECS Swim Championship, and broke 19 national records during the 12 month period!
It’s no wonder that the Grenada Olympic Committee named her female sports personality of the year for the second year in a row.
The former St Joseph’s Convent student is now studying at TAMCC but continues to compete internationally. And she’s as grounded as she is focussed. She says her favourite way to spend a rare, day off would be curled up in front of a book or sharing a meal with her friends and family.
When, at the end of our conversation, I ask if there is anything else she’d like to mention, she is quick to thank all of her supporters.
“I’d like to mention the support, that’s really important to me,” she says. “It’s something I’ve got from family members and many of my friends. The love and support from everyone have really helped me to stay in the sport and to keep on going on days when I’ve felt like I’ve had enough.”
What was life like for you when you were growing up?
I grew up in Good Hope, St Pauls, which is quite near the pool so I could easily walk to the pool everyday. My childhood was great. It was filled with a lot of sporting activities, not just swimming. My whole family is very sport-oriented and my parents always made sure that we were very active in something but swimming just stuck with my younger sister and I.
There’s already a lot that you’ve packed into your 17-years but what would you describe as your career highlight to date?
That’s a difficult question. A few years ago I went to the 2011 Commonwealth Games. I did well there when I placed tenth in one of my races and it was my best time back then. That was a real achievement for me. I was only 13-years-old at the time, but it was a moment that really opened my mind to the possibility that I could go further in swimming.
You have an amazingly busy schedule with swimming plus your academic work and lots of extracurricular activities. How do you manage to fit it all in?
It’s very difficult to fit everything in! Swimming enforces time management so there’s no time to play around. As soon as you have free time you have to dedicate it to your books, your studies or whatever need to be done. My mom always taught us to get good grades first so matter if I have training or not, homework still needs to be done, assignments need to be completed and we need to keep our grades up.
Do you plan to go to university? What are you next steps after you finish college?
I do plan to go on to university. I want to study dentistry, but that could change. I’m very into the sciences. I hope to get a scholarship to study in the US, I’m really trying for a swimming scholarship as the US has the best swimming universities in the world.
You’ve had the opportunity to travel quite widely as a result of your swimming. How has seeing other countries and cultures shaped your outlook?
It’s been a great opportunity to travel to other places. What it’s done for me is to really help me develop a respect for other cultures and religions. It’s helped me to understand points of view that may differ from my own, to experience how other people live and it’s opened my mind to many new possibilities.
When you’re travelling as part of the Grenada team, what’s the atmosphere like? Is it quite stressful, or competitive or fun? What’s it like when you’re all away together?
I’d describe it as fun. The most fun I’ve had was at the Commonwealth Games where I travelled with the biggest Grenada team I’ve been part of so far. There were swimmers, boxers, tracks athletes… That experience of being far from home but being surrounded by a group of people who are from the same place as you is really comforting. The team spirit that you feel with the rest of the Grenadians is something you cannot even describe. Being able to represent my country with other people from home is just one of the best feelings!
Are there any Grenadian sportspeople who you look up to, or who inspire you?
All my team mates at the pool at home inspire me. But specifically I’d say that Kirani inspires me because he’s such a humble person yet he’s doing amazing things for Grenada on the track.
This may be a hard questions to answer but if you could quit swimming and do something else entirely, what do you think you would do?
I’m not sure I’d be able to love another sport as much as I love swimming, but I think maybe I could’ve been a gymnast.
What advice do you have for young people who are inspired by you and who want to follow in your footsteps?
My advice would be to work hard and to persevere. It’s not an easy journey, I’m still struggling in certain places but once you keep at it and look at the long term benefits that it’ll all be worth it in the end.