South Africa’s Calvyn Justus Is A Man With A Plan (Interview)

by Retta Race 8

December 09th, 2015 Africa, International, Lifestyle, News

Embedded within the South African contingent headed to the Netherlands for the Amsterdam Cup this weekend is rising star Calvyn Justus, a 19-year-old freestyle specialist who is striving to make a name for himself both in and out of the pool.

We featured one of Justus’ on-deck talents, that of artistic and informative vlogging by sharing his YouTube video adventure to Dubai and Doha as part of this year’s FINA World Cup circuit. The visual journey is just one of the many mini-features Justus has produced, which span subjects from swimming to traveling to art, all housed in his own YouTube channel.

In the aquatic realm of life, Justus is inching more and more toward the upper ranks of the international swimming scene, earning two relay medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and, most recently, making his first World Cup final in Doha.  Justus wound up finishing 8th in that men’s 200m freestyle final, but he plans on using that accomplishment as a springboard to move his way up the swim-food-chain, with his eyes ultimately on a South African Olympic roster berth.

On the cusp of moving into the elite layers of international swimming, Justus has seen his times steadily improve, most notably in his 200m freestyle.  Within a span of less 2 years, Justus knocked almost 3 seconds off of his LCM personal best, dropping it from 1:52.37 in 2013 to a sub-1:50 mark of 1:49.58 at this summer’s All-Africa Games. Justus is ranked within the top 5 in his country in the 200m freestyle and is currently positioned as the 2nd-swiftest 400m freestyler of South Africa.

In an exclusive interview with SwimSwam, Justus reveals what drew him to the sport of swimming, how the athletic environment is faring in his home country of South Africa, as well as who and what drives him to success in all facets of life.

Retta: Tell readers a brief history of your swimming background; when you started; when you knew you were “good”; what events you specialize in; where you train and with whom.

Justus: I first started swimming at my middle school around year 5, I was actually told I had to attend after school lessons if I wanted to make the team as I was a weak swimmer, a year or so after that I was then told I was too advanced for the after school lessons and I should consider joining a swimming club. I joined my first club called NDSA and that’s where I guess you could say I started taking the sport very seriously and my dreams of the Olympics were planted in my mind. I begun as a backstroker yet I later made the switch to freestyle. I swam for NDSA until I begun high school at Westville Boys High School, the highest ranked swimming school in South Africa. At this point I believed in order to take my swimming to the next level I needed to join arguably the best coach and swimming program in our country, Graham Hill, head coach of Seagulls swimming club, So in year 8 (14 years Old)  I made the transition and I have swum for Graham with my seagulls team mates ever since!

Retta: Describe your swimming personality.  Are you a fierce competitor? A laid-back saboteur? A high-energy, always amped up athlete?

Justus: I think I’m a bit of everything but if I had to go with the most dominant trait I’d have to say I’m fairly laid back. I like to keep calm and collected before races, I don’t really like thinking about the race too much, I just kinda go out there and let my ‘instinct’ take over.

Retta: What is your most memorable achievement in the pool?

Justus: I would say winning a silver and bronze medal in the 100m and 200m freestyle relays at the 2014 Commonwealth games my highest achievement to date.

Retta: Whom do you look up to in terms of swimming idols? Athletic idols overall?

Justus: I’m not sure I idolize any swimmers but rather I have huge amounts of respect for them, I have a lot of respect for my national team mates and I really respect some of the more humble swimmers that are Olympians and world champions. I say I don’t idolise any as it’s getting to the point now where I have to try my best to start competing and trying to beat them.

Retta: What drives your motivation? How do you keep yourself to keep grinding day in, day out?

Justus: Without a doubt its my hunger to make the Olympic team, It’s all I’ve ever wanted and dreamt of. The Olympic games is my sole focus and goal and I think once anyone is aware of a dream/goal its relatively easy to stay motivated and dedicated to achieving that goal.

Retta: Describe your YouTube Channel.  What do you post?  How often? Who is your audience?  Does it tie in with your swimming? Do your YouTube efforts reflect where you see yourself headed after your swimming career?

Justus: I’ve always had a huge passion for the arts and creation. I became very intrigued with graphic art/design in high school. In my final year I discovered the term ”youtuber” and thought it’d be pretty fun to give it a try, My first few videos, well a lot really, were quite awful. It took me awhile to find my footing and kind of decide what content I wanted to create. It wasn’t until this year really that I started getting more sure of my content and felt like its starting to get on track, I still have loads to learn and figure out but I’m happy with the direction its leading. I try to incorporate a large amount of my swimming life, especially when we travel to big meets etc. I get some really positive feedback from aspiring young swimmers and that really motivates me to keep creating these videos. I also create some more passion driven and artsy stuff as well, there’s a lot going on, on my channel but I love expressing all my passions and interests in one place. Content creation and film making is definitely what I want to pursue after my swimming career however at the moment they seem to be merging together quite nicely.

Retta: Any comments on South African swimming funding? Word is the federation is pretty stingy with $ and travel reimbursement.  How does this affect you, both on a practical level, but also on an emotional level?

Justus: It’s no secret our country battles with funding, It can obviously get pretty demotivating at times but they’re really trying to step it up lately, I really do appreciate the support we are being given and a lot of new opportunities have been created for us as of late. There are definite signs of improvement.

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An interesting story; however one that is unlikely to have the “dream come true”. The cold facts remain that Justus remains a considerable distance from making the FINA A marks at either 100 or 200FS. Furthermore, RSA failed to field teams in either M4X100 or M4X200 in Kazan and therefore missed any chance of the 12 automatic qualification spots for Rio. Whether they WILL actually look to put up a relay time in contention for one of the 4 remaining positions for Rio remains to be seen. Their finals times in both events at 2014 CommGames would, most likely make the cut however this would involve them swimming their top 4 swimmers which would NOT include Mr Justus. Their competition… Read more »


Unfortunately your analysis is spot on. Somehow or other, Mr. Justus will need to swim a 1:47+ and have a little help form his teammates, to shake up the analysis that you have done. Stranger things have happened.


He actually did make the 2016 Olympic relay team for the 4x200m freestyle and was considered for the 4x100m medley team but unfortunately did not make it. He competed at the Olympics but the team did not make it past the heats 🙂

Gina Rhinestone

SA could make both but need to get the opportune race . I suggest both SA & Aus do a relay race halfway in Perth.

Think outside the circle . Maybe an experimental high altitude camp swap for WA swimmers . Maybe we can tack it on to the MH 370 budget if they look out the window over the Indian Ocean.


No Super Series on the calendar due to loss of BHP sponsorship so that possibility is “out the window”. In any case, has Swimming South Africa already blown their travel budget sending “extras” to various World Cup meets ?

Think the MH370 “showboating” stopped when your mate Antoine “got the elbow” but like the creative thinking ! Not enough quality in WA to make such a trip worthwhile. Not sure whether all the top AUS sprinters will make the trip to Perth for WA titles so unlikely to be a “relay hit-out” even if the Saffers make the trip.


South Africa should perhaps look to the US based South Africans who are performing. The likes of Brad Tandy, Dylan Bosch, Sebastian Rousseau, Brett Walsh and Roland Schoeman should all be considered for the relay positions for the 4×100 free and 4×200 free relays before Mr Justus. It will be an interesting Nationals next year when all the US based swimmers return.

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