One morning Nicholas Bovell came hobbling into my English
and the Media class. What happened to your leg?
Pulling up his pants leg to reveal a bandaged leg with stitches,
Nicholas recounted quite nonchalantly how he and his friend
David had gone fishing.
reeled in a fish and my leg somehow ended up in his mouth.
Those teeth were sharp, Nicholas laughed.
Thats Nicholas: always jovial and never worried.
Its hard to tell if Nicholas Bovell, 18, is following
in his familys footsteps or fashioning his own identity
in a family of athletes. His father, George Bovell II, was
a competitive swimmer as is his famous brother, George III.
The names alone suggest a dynasty of swimmers, while his
mother, Barbara, was a runner in the 76 Olympics in
Munich, Germany. (His sister, Alexandra, likes horse-back
riding). Still, Nicholas says swimming was his decision.
one in my family ever pushed me to swim, says Nicholas.
I always liked sports and I used to do plenty different
ones; football, tennis, sailing. Eventually I narrowed them
down, but swimming was my choice. In my house it was Do
whatever you want. No one ever said, Why dont
Of course it didnt hurt to see big brother George
always looked up to George. We had a typical older brother,
younger brother relationship. He used to beat me up all
the time, Nicholas laughs.
Ask Nicholas if its hard to grow up as George Bovells
little brother and hell answer without a moments
hesitation. Not at all. George is George and I am
People dont compare him to his brother as much as
you might think, Nicholas insists.
when they do, I dont mind. I can learn from Georges
example. Hes humble, not boisterous. Those are good
lessons I learned from him over time. What he achieves doesnt
While growing up, weekends and vacations in the Bovell family
were spent fishing, going to Tobago or down the islands.
I had the choice to go to a movie or do something out doors,
it would have been my choice to be outside, says Nicholas.
Im an active outdoors person. I like to surf
and fish. Going to the mall and that kind of stuff doesnt
appeal to me.
Nicholas says he always dreamed of going to the Olympics.
a little boy, I always thought about going to the Olympics.
Last Olympics I came close to qualifying.
But this time Nicholas did make the cut for this summers
Games in Greece. The qualifying time was two minutes 6.8
seconds and he swam two minutes 5.2 seconds.
I swam I knew that the odds were good, Id make it.
I was in good shape, I had been training hard.
Confidence, like laughter, are strong Nicholas Bovell traits.
He describes himself as hard working, realistic, humble,
and honest. I dont know about disciplined because
sometimes I dont wake up in the morning, he
chuckles. Nah, Im disciplined, I know what is
best for me.
That includes the decision to leave school in Florida and
return to Trinidad to train the year before the Olympics.
Nicholas says that decision to return home was his
not his parents.
was ineligible to swim as a team member because I had too
many credits at school and it made it look like I had five
years of school instead of the usual four it takes to graduate,
so I decided to come back home to train for the Olympics.
Even with his grueling swimming schedule Nicholas never
opted for an easy academic schedule. His last year of school
included courses in Economics, English and the Media and
worry about your reading, Miss, hed say when
he had to leave the country for swimming or check out a
university dangling a scholarship in front of him like fish
bait. I enjoy reading. Ill read on the plane.
Nicholas always returned ahead of everyone else. The unit
on the social and historical significance of rastafarianism
was his favourite for the year, although he also enjoyed
Heart of Darkness and the unit on film editing.
favourite all time book is Lord of the Rings by William
Golding, says Nicholas.
The last good book he read was Into Thin Air, based on a
true story about a Mt Everest expedition gone wrong. Reggae
is his favourite music and Bob Marley is his favourite singer.
He has too much energy to sit through many movies, but he
counts Braveheart and The Last Samurai among his favourite.
A typical day for Nicholas begins with waking at 4:10 am.
race to swimming; swim from 4.45 until 7.15 am; go to school,
swim after school or go to the gym from 3 pm to 4.30 pm
weight training, run on treadmill, and swim at 5 pm again.
Then comes homework and some time for a very special girl.
Earlier in the year, before he met Sarah, students asked
about a girlfriend and Nicholas answered, Her name
That was before he met Sarah Cansfield, an art student,
who played volleyball and didnt swim. This year, Sarah
earned the top score in the US for AP Art for Two Dimensional
cant do art at all, you know, Miss, Nicholas
used to say as hed watch Sarahs art work in
course not, Id say. You have fins
because Ive been swimming forever, said Nicholas.
Nicholas began swimming competitively at age seven in St
Andrews. He moved to Maple Leaf, and then to Bolles School
in Jacksonville, Florida, before deciding to finish his
education at the International School of Port-of-Spain.
Now that hes graduated, Nicholas will be joining his
brother George, 20, at Auburn University in Alabama. That
doesnt bother Nicholas. He knows hes a swimmer
in his own right, a multiple national record holder.
hard to be specific without writing a page, he says
about his accomplishments. He is the Caribbean Island Swimming
Championship Record Holder for all the Caribbean Islands
and he earned multiple medals in the CCAN Central South
American/Caribbean championships; and Pan Am games where
he swam the 200m backstroke, 100m backstroke, 200m individual
medley and 200m freestyle. At the Olympics hell be
swimming the 200m and 100m backstroke.
When Nicholas steps out of the pool after the Olympics,
he will turn his attention to rocks. Hes going to
appeals to me, says Nicholas. I like it because
it could be a job that you dont have to sit by a desk
would have thought youd want to do something like
Marine biology, I say teasingly.
Nicholas laughs. It does seem to be the opposite of
what I do. Come to think of it a rock sinks. It cant
even float, he says with a smile as he jumps off the
desk and heads for swimming practice.
(Debbie Jacob was Nicholas Bovells teacher at the