As a nation of 115 islands which are scattered about the Indian Ocean, it is perhaps unsurprising that Seychelles has one of the best swimmers in Africa.

In April 2021, Felicity Passon swam between La Digue and Praslin - the second and third most populated islands - before turning around and heading back the other way. 

Her 15 kilometre round trip lasted a little over four hours, and had the aim of raising awareness about mental health.

Passon did not have much time to rest afterwards, though, as later in the year she was heading to the rearranged Olympic Games in Tokyo, where she would serve as the country's flagbearer.

The 22-year-old, who attends the University of Arizona in the United States, competed in the women's 100 metres and 200m backstroke and will be one of the country's athletes to watch at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Passon won both of those events at the 2019 African Games in Morocco, where she claimed four medals in all. She previously appeared at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games but did not race last time out at Gold Coast 2018.

"Mostly we are thinking about athletics and swimming," said Norbert Dogley, the Seychelles Chef de Mission for Birmingham 2022, to insidethegames.

"These are the two sports we are good at - especially swimming. We are strong and we have a good team, the ladies' team and the men's team. 

"These two sports, we think we can win something."

Felicity Passon is the leading swimmer for Seychelles heading towards Birmingham 2022 ©Getty Images
Felicity Passon is the leading swimmer for Seychelles heading towards Birmingham 2022 ©Getty Images

As well as Passon, Dogley highlighted hurdler Ned Azemia, a double Olympian, and Tokyo 2020 butterfly swimmer Simon Bachmann as athletes who are showing promise before Birmingham.

"They are the ones who have benefitted from the Olympic scholarships," he said. "They are training hard."

Seychelles are also due to compete in boxing, cycling and judo at the Commonwealth Games, while they are hoping to qualify in the new sport of 3x3 basketball, beach volleyball, table tennis and weightlifting.

"Our quota is 21 athletes for the time being," said Dogley. "The other sports will need to qualify.

"We are on the right track. We are trying to get things together for the Games."

Most of the top athletes in Seychelles live on the largest and main island of Mahé, with sport starting to return to normal again following the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We were affected a lot with the COVID situation in the Seychelles," Dogley said.

"Preparing for the Olympic Games in Japan, we had a lot of difficulties, but we managed to participate. 

"Sport started again a few months ago, but always we have to test, we have to stay safe. 

"Now we are starting the training. I think we'll be in full swing by 2022."

Dogley served as Seychelles Chef de Mission at the 2018 African Youth Games in Algiers, but this will be his first Commonwealth Games.

He is the President of the Seychelles Handball Federation and would like to see the sport on the Commonwealth programme in the future - a possibility now as future hosts will have a far greater say on what sports are included.

Seychelles at the Opening Ceremony of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games ©Getty Images
Seychelles at the Opening Ceremony of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games ©Getty Images

The country will have the honour of welcoming the Queen's Baton Relay over Christmas, something Dogley said they needed to be prepared for.

"We are still working on it," he said. "We are hoping to go to other islands. 

"The schoolchildren will be on holidays at this time, so we are planning to involve them." 

When it comes to the Games itself, Dogley expects the public across the paradise isles to be enthused.

Seychelles has won seven Commonwealth Games medals in its history, but is still awaiting a maiden title after claiming three silvers and four bronze.

Boxer Keddy Agnes won men's super heavyweight bronze in Gold Coast, while the country, which relies heavily on its National Sports Council, has also reached the podium in weightlifting and athletics.

"People in Seychelles normally watch the big Games," Dogley said. "They watch very closely. 

"The media put a lot of emphasis on the athletes, and there's information every day. So people get ready for that.

"The Government will help with our preparation of the athletes. Together with the Olympic Committee, these are the two main partners. We are working together.

"We have a small budget from the Government, but we always get something from them and we have sponsors. 

"We also get assistance from the international bodies. For example in handball we received 600 Swiss francs from the International Handball Federation."

Dogley is hopeful that the Seychelles team - which enjoys large medal hauls every four years at the Indian Ocean Island Games - will be able to stay together at Birmingham 2022.

Boxer Keddy Agnes won bronze for Seychelles at Gold Coast 2018 ©Getty Images
Boxer Keddy Agnes won bronze for Seychelles at Gold Coast 2018 ©Getty Images

Organisers have scrapped plans for an Athletes' Village and will instead spread competitors out across the NEC Hotel Campus, the University of Birmingham and the University of Warwick.

"I think we will be welcome as a Commonwealth country," Dogley said. "We are going to have a good Games. 

"Seychelles in two different places is what I have heard, but it's not confirmed yet. We'll see how we go.

"If we can be in one place we can be as a team together. We'll see as we go along if we can be in one venue, but this will depend on the amount of athletes we have."