Jérémy Stravius (14 July, 1988) is a French backstroke and freestyle swimmer whose versatility has brought success at 100m and 200m, as well as in the freestyle and medley relays for his national team.
Jérémy started collecting titles in his own country in 2005, when he won both 50m and 100m backstroke at the French Juniors. He went on to repeat the feat the following year, before ending his junior years with a 50m-100m-200m triple in 2008.
In 2009 Jérémy won his first senior national title, making everyone sit up and take notice as he won the 100m backstroke title and shattered the new record set in the semi-final. A few months later he stepped on to his first senior international podium in Pescara at the Mediterranean Games, where he won the 50m backstroke bronze and was part of the French 4x200m freestyle relay team that took second place. At his first World Championships in Rome, he made the 100m backstroke semi-final, and swam in the French 4x100m medley relay team that finished fifth, just over a second behind the podium finishes. He ended the year by winning his first international title, the 4x50m freestyle relay at the European SC Championships in Istanbul.
2010 brought Jérémy his first European LC medal as he took the 100m backstroke silver, and then swam the anchor of the French 4x200m freestyle bronze medal effort, overcoming a 1.9s deficit as he swam the fastest leg of the race. At the year-end’s World SC Championships in Dubai, he earned another 4x200m freestyle bronze, and made the finals of both 50m and 100m backstroke.
With the focus on the World Championships in Shanghai, 2011 did not disappoint, as Jérémy reached the pinnacle of his career so far, with his first world title (albeit shared). Having swum the second-fastest 100m backstroke heat and the fastest semi-final, Stravius scrapped out the final with compatriot Camille Lacourt, catching him on the home strait to finish in a 52.76s tie. Jérémy also swam in both French freestyle relays, in each of which he earned a silver medal.
After his promising 2011, 2012 started off disappointingly as Jérémy failed to make the 100m backstroke cut for the French Olympic team, finishing third in the French trials. He did, however, qualify for the freestyle relays, and in the European Championships in April, he and his teammates won the 4x100m gold medal. At the London Olympics, the French 4x100m freestyle relay team repeated their European heroics, winning the gold medal in a thrilling race. In the 4x200m freestyle relay, the French team took home the silver medal. While Stravius did not swim in either final, he earned his medals through his appearances in each of the relay heats.
Jérémy ended 2012 on a strong note as he won five gold medals and a silver at the European SC Championships in Chartres. In his individual events, Stravius won gold in the 50m and 100m backstroke, while picking up a silver in the 200m IM. His three relay golds came in the men’s 4x50m freestyle, men’s 4x50m medley, and mixed 4x50m medley.
On 26 July, 2011, in Shanghai, Jérémy Stravius joined a very elite group of swimmers – those who have dead-heated for the gold medal in an individual World Championship event. To date (as of early 2013), there are only six swimmers in this group, and when Jérémy and compatriot Camille Lacourt touched the wall at the same time, they became only the third and fourth members of that group. (Joint 100m freestyle winners in Shanghai, Jeanette Ottesen (Denmark) and Aliaksandra Herasimenia (Belarus), were to join the elite group three days later.)
When Jérémy made his first trip to the pool as a seven-year-old, the thought that he would one day find himself in such a group would probably have been as far away from his mind as the prospect of travelling in space. When he was just four-and-a-half months old, he, a brother and a sister were separated from their three other siblings and placed in a foster home, and it was with the two of them that he first went to the pool across the street to relax as a youngster. After briefly contemplating taking up football, he settled on swimming, joining the Club Nautique Albatros de Friville.
At the age of 16 Jérémy was spotted by Amiens coach Michel Chrétien, who wanted him to train full-time. While not refusing outright, his mother insisted that he first finish his high school diploma, and so it wasn’t until two years later, his studies then completed, that his swimming career effectively started.
Jérémy‘s move to L'Amiens Métropole Natation in 2007 not only launched a long and close relationship with coach Chrétien, it also introduced him to fellow swimmer Mélanie Henique, who had come to the club a year earlier. The two of them have since become the best of friends, and she wept tears of joy at the poolside when he won his gold medal in Shanghai. Four days after his victory, he was able to share Mélanie’s joy as she won the 50m butterfly bronze medal.
Becoming part of the French national team was another big moment, not least because he could be side by side with French swimming icon Alain Bernard. Along with other top sportsmen such as Roger Federer, Bernard has been a big influence for Jérémy, who has been particularly impressed with the simplicity that such top athletes bring to their sport and performances. Being part of the national team also helped his desire for victory overcome his timidity before big races.
There are many sides to Jérémy Stravius besides swimming, and in early 2013 the popular French TV program, 30 millions d’amis (30 Million Friends), highlighted one of them. Entitled Les supporters du champion (Supporters of the Champion), the program focused on his relationship with his two American Cocker Spaniels, Jersey and Gypsy, and his love for animals in general. “When I was small, I wanted to become a veterinarian, but it was not possible to combine studies with swimming.” That doesn’t mean his passion for animals doesn’t get time in his life, and he hopes to pursue it further once he hangs up his racket by opening an animal shelter of some kind.
Another passion that will get more time after his swimming days is tennis, and perhaps even earlier than that, learning English, since he’d “like to talk with other athletes like those I met in London during the Olympic Games.”
Given the demands of his swimming training and competition schedule (and a bit of attention for Jersey and Gypsy), there’s little time for leisure, but when he has some, you’ll find Jérémy watching fantasy movies, reading sports magazines, going bowling, and playing paintball and video games.