2019 People of the Year: Brandon Schuster
Samoa swimming's golden boy Brandon Lloyd Schuster is not just a swimmer, he insists.
Following on from the two gold, one silver and two bronze medals he won at the 2019 XVI Pacific Games in Samoa, he was also crowned the Games’ Best Male Athlete at the closing ceremony of the two-week regional sporting event.
National swimming team captain, Schuster along with teammate Lauren Sale created history as the first swimmers to win gold medals in swimming for Samoa in the Pacific Games.
Over two months later Schuster was named the Oceania Best Male Athlete at the Association of National Olympic Committees (A.N.O.C.) 2019 Awards in Doha, Qatar.
Schuster has also represented Samoa at the 2016 Rio Olympics and holds various Samoan national swimming records. He was the only swimmer who represented Samoa in the 2015 Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea, winning silver and bronze medals.
The son of Toeolesulusulu Cedric and Suzie Schuster, who is his coach, and has been swimming competitively for Samoa for about seven years.
He started out as a young 17-year-old professional swimming competitor as a solo swimmer for Samoa and now leads a Samoan swimming team of 14.
But in an interview with the Samoa Observer, he is adamant that there is more to him than just being a swimmer, and revealed how the impact of Christianity and growing up in Samoa is a big part of who he is as a person.
“Not just because I grew up in Samoa going to lotu every Sunday but because I've always wanted striving to find out my faith, a big part is through both my parents especially my mum,” he said.
“She did Rhema [Bible College Samoa] when I was at Robert Louis Stevenson School, it's also one of the reasons I chose to go to a Christian university.”
He is currently a “sometimes sleep deprived student”, studying at the California Baptist University under a swimming scholarship that he received in 2017. He is studying biomedical engineering.
Schuster said he has also been leading a small fellowship within his swim team at the university for the last two years, which he said has “shown God's work even more.''
At 21 years of age, the young adult is already family-oriented. He was gutted that he had to spend Christmas away from home for the first time this year.
He is a brother to three younger siblings, is a son, is a cousin, a nephew and a grandson – which are all roles Schuster says he does not take lightly.
“Family is insanely important, this is the first Christmas I am not with family and while it is a bit hard,” he said.
“I love my younger siblings even when we all rough it up a bit at home. Words really can't contain how much family means to me.”
And Schuster is Samoan to the core, though he says, he still has more to learn about his culture and what it means to be Samoan.
Being a Samoan was not something he thought much about, despite growing up in the islands, until he travelled abroad to compete. The young man has even made it his goal to learn more about the Fa’a Samoa.
“I think the biggest turning point was when I left to start [university] in 2017 did I realize how important it is to understand where I come from,” he said.
“I still haven't figured it all out but at least now I have a goal on where I should be going.”
And like any islander, Schuster admits training is essential for a professional career in swimming, he is quite the food lover and is not sorry one bit.