Chan: from Indian Ocean island to Olympic opportunity


After competing for years on his Indian Ocean home island of Mauritius, De Anza College swimmer Darren Chan, 21, hospitality management major, came to California looking for more competition.

“I was finishing high school there, and I wanted to keep swimming, but in Mauritius we don’t have a lot of swimmers,” he said. “I wanted more people to race so I was looking into Australia, Canada, South Africa, Europe.”

He ultimately decided to come to California on advice from a friend of the family.

“He was the assistant head coach at San Jose State,” Chan said. “He contacted me and said I want you to swim in California for DACA, then go to De Anza, and transfer to a 4-year school.”

Chan began his swimming career when his mom signed him up for classes. He began to compete at age 10, and discovered his love for the sport at 12. Since then, he’s been training hard.

He said his mom said he had to learn how to swim since he lives on an island.

In August, 2011, he won the gold medal in the 100 meter breaststroke at the Indian Ocean Island Games. He was 15 at the time.

In  2015, he went back to compete in the same games. He won a gold medal in the 100 breaststroke and silver medals in the 200 breaststroke and the 50 breaststroke.

Swimming is not just a daily routine for Darren.

“It’s more about the feeling when you race,” he said. “You train for a month, and it all comes down to one race that last 30 seconds, or a minute. But the feeling after a race and winning it, it feels good. I want to feel this way multiple times. That’s why I keep swimming.”

What helps him stay focused and motivated is making time for his loved ones and hanging out with his friends.

All his family still lives in Mauritius, so he communicates through Skype and Facetime.

“It’s kind of hard because of the 12-hour difference, when it’s 12 p.m. here, over there at Mauritius it’s midnight,” Chan said. “Sometimes I forget, when I need to ask them something I call. It’s 3 p.m. here, over there it’s 3 in the morning, and then I’m just apologizing.”

Director of De Anza Cupertino Aquatics Pete Raykavoich has been coaching Chan for years.

Raykavoich said Darren’s work ethic, and the support he provides to his teammates, makes Darren stand out.

Darren’s school routine keeps him busy, and productive. He starts swimming practices at 5:45 a.m. After practice, he goes to school, then  practices again in the afternoon. He’s in bed at 10 p.m. readying himself to repeat it all again the next day.

“Some days that I don’t have practice, I still get up at 6 a.m. because I’m used to it,” he said.

One of the best memories he has from swimming as a kid was when he won a race against the one guy he knew would always win.

“He would always show off to everyone, and then I thought maybe I should try to beat him,” he said. “At the three events he was in, I won against him. I was pretty proud of myself.”

At a swim meet in Mesa, Arizona, Chan met and bonded with his current roommate and former teammate Shayne Fleming.

“As a teammate, Darren is a fierce competitor,” Fleming said.  “Without a doubt, in every single practice set you will see him at the front of the pack working hard. His easy access to his enthusiastic emotions drives him to be better.”  

One thing that drew Fleming to Chan was Chan’s sense of humor.

“I was rejoining my club team after college graduation.  He happened to join the same team,” Fleming said. “He managed to make me laugh almost continuously the entire trip.  Away from the pool, Darren is a natural comedian.”

Chan’s ultimate goal is to go to the Olympic games.

“The Olympic games inspire me. If could make it there, that would be good. That’s what is pushing me right now, I want to go there at Tokyo,” Chan said.

Next fall, Chan will transfer to San Jose State.

For more information about Chan’s performance at the state championship see: