Steffi Fa’aasusivaitele Heatherington Carruthers is not simply just a name in Samoa. She is a form of inspiration for the young and a driving force for upcoming sports stars.
If you walk down the street and mention her name you will surely get the response ‘yes everyone knows Steffi’.
For someone who inspires young people all over Samoa with her complete dedication, focus and perfected skill, it would be a crime if she was not nominated in this year’s S.A.S.N.O.C sports award.
The 22 year old will be going against some tough competitors for the ‘Sports Woman of the Year’ award held on the 30th of this month.
Being the first Samoan woman to play professional tennis and the first Pacific Oceanian player to win a professional tournament, she has proven herself to be worth of the nomination.
She has also managed to win 2 International Tennis Federation titles in doubles.
With all that out of the way, let us get to know the young tennis star and her road to success.
Named after the great female tennis athlete Steffi Graf from Germany, it is an achievement in itself to live up to her namesake.
“My parents did not know what to name me, until one night they were watching TV and that’s when Steffi Graf had just won the French Open Grand Slam,” she said.
“There was no question about it, my parents named me Steffi; Fa’aasusivaitele is my great grandmother on my mother’s side, who according to my mother was a very hard working woman and wanted me to be just like her.”
Being one of 5 siblings who all played tennis, Steffi stuck to her dream of being successful on the courts.
“It was my great grandfather, Richard Carruthers who built one of the first tennis courts in Samoa which is still in good shape up to now and this is located at my residence up at Vailima,” she said,
“I trained on this court from the ages 5 to 15 years old with the best coach in the world, my mother; I then traveled for my first international tournament at the age of 10.”
At the age of 14 Steffi was involved in a variety of sports such as soccer, netball, basketball and rugby; she would compete against both boys and girls.
This however was stopped by her mother so that she would focus solely on tennis.
“I remember that day, my mum came to me and sat me down and said Steffi you have to make a decision, you are getting hurt from other sports and you either can’t train for tennis or you miss a tournament because you are hurt,” she said.
“You have to sacrifice some things if you want to become a very good tennis player; I was very upset and I cried because I was a sports freak.
“I am a very competitive person since my younger days; I never wanted to lose if it’s in tennis or another activity, school or competition within my family, I didn’t know how to lose graciously.
“My sisters and parents were very good tennis players so I always wanted to be the best one out of all of them.”
Even at a very young age Steffi knew the concept of hard work.
“I remember when I was 14 I told myself I need to train more than others, I need to be better, how am I going to be better,” she said.
“I watched some YouTube videos on physical training and also tennis training, I used to write a lot of the new interesting drills or exercises to improve myself.”
One of the drives for the young star was her relationship and walk with Jesus.
“I prayed a lot and always had a close relationship with our Lord and Savior, in my heart I knew that one day God will give me an opportunity to train overseas and that was my motivation,” she said.
“I also knew I had to be ready because once God opens the door for me to train overseas I had to be fit and ready to take on the challenge and not just to wait around until the time comes.
“My mother always spoke the word of God upon my family, she always taught us good values and told me ‘Steffi put God first in everything you do, have faith in him and be faithful to him and he will show you the way in life, in your tennis and anything you want’.
“As a little girl I was like ‘wow my God is going to do all that for me’, I was always excited to wake up and see what the Lord had for me each day, I never liked to sleep.
“I always thought sleep is a waste of my time when I had to do many things like school work, house work, tennis training, etc.”
Other than God and her family being her inspirations, Steffi also sees tennis kids in Samoa as a great motivation.
“I want to be the best and to be a good role model for the tennis kids so they can see that it’s possible to be from our small island and still play against top players around the world,” she said.
“My message for those kids is to enjoy your tennis, the good days and the bad days, see it as always a pleasure to be on the tennis court.
“Work hard and be honest in trainings even if the coach is not there or if the coach is not looking, always work hard no matter what, believe in yourself and achieve your goals.”