From Luxembourg to California Baptist, Remi Fabiani Has Big Dreams

Remi Fabiani (2)
Photo Courtesy: Zac Zeman/California Baptist Athletics

From Luxembourg to California Baptist, Remi Fabiani Has Big Dreams

There’s something familiar to Remi Fabiani when he competes at meets like November’s Purdue Invitational.

Representing California Baptist, he’s not part of the biggest team. But as a native of Luxembourg, he’s gotten accustomed to that dynamic in international competition, and excelling under those conditions is a skill the sprinter has practice at.

It’s also one that has opened doors. He’s represented Luxembourg internationally, at World and European Championships, an opportunity peers in larger countries don’t find so easily. He’s hoping that by finding the best of both worlds – of small country experience and big meet intensity in college swimming – one of those doors might have a trip to Paris in the summer of 2024 behind them.

Remi Fabiani (4)

Remi Fabiani; Photo Courtesy: California Baptist Athletics

“I had the chance to go to all these meets because I am from a smaller country and I don’t have to do all these Olympic Trials and World Championships Trials,” Fabiani told Swimming World. “So it allows me to go to these meets. But we usually have teams that are not big, that are four athletes, and then you see teams like Hungary or France or the United States swimming with 30 swimmers.

“It was sort of a practice, and it’s not always easy, because for me, it is intimidating at those big meets, but at the same time, it allows me at meets like Purdue where I know what it’s like, I know what to expect and I don’t feel as much pressure as if it was my first time competing against those big schools.”

Fabiani is coming off a strong invitational season, even if his times fell slightly short of his expectations. At Purdue, the sophomore won the 50 freestyle against swimmers from power programs like the hosts and Louisville. He set a time just off his best but with a chance to get him to NCAAs.

A season ago, Fabiani set his best time at the WAC Championships last February at 19.23 seconds. He had been 19.46 at the midseason invitational of his freshman year. His WAC time was under the final invited time to NCAAs last year, 19.28. (California Baptist wasn’t eligible to send swimmers to NCAAs last season, serving a four-year waiting period upon elevating from Division II, which the Lancers did for the 2018-19 academic year. It is fully eligible in all sports this season.)

Fabiani’s goal remains closing the gap to the elite sprinters who look set to rocket out of the 18s altogether. Getting to NCAAs would be a big coup for him and the program – and possibly a springboard to more.

“My goal will be to qualify for the Olympics, but mostly it’s trying to catch up to the people at the top,” he said. “Especially in the NCAA, you have Jordan Crooks and Bjorn Seeliger swimming 18.2, and I’m still pretty far away from that. I’m trying to catch up and try to do my best. I think if I can have a go in the NCAA and a go in the long-course season, it would keep me on the track to keep getting better.”

Fabiani set a Luxembourgish long-course meters record in the men’s 50 free at Sette Colli in 2021, going 22.54 seconds. He is .07 behind the national mark in the 100 free at 49.74, held by Arizona freshman Ralph Daleiden. He trained through the summer of 2022, finishing 47th at the World Championships in Budapest in 22.80 in the 50 free. He was 28th at Euros in 22.63 and tied for 40th in the 100 free in 50.12 and 32nd in the 50 back.

Fabiani has come a long way, literally and figuratively. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t so much disrupt the 6-3 sprinter’s recruitment as it prevented it from starting. A paucity of swims in 2020 meant he had precious few senior times to show prospective schools, using an agency to get his name out there to American schools.

He signed with CBU sight unseen. His first trip to the United States landed him in Riverside to enroll in the summer of 2021, figuring out how to get a phone, start a bank account and sock his dorm in a new country. Much as living in the States – and California in particular, for a film and political science major – was a dream, that didn’t make the transition less bumpy.

“I always dreamt of going to the United States, and especially coming to California, so that was great,” Fabiani said. “I would say it was a tough three months of figuring out how everything works – how school works, school is very different, grades are very different. I had to learn and speak a more fluent English, even though I learned it at school. … It was exciting. It was hard but at the same time, it was enjoyable because it was something I wanted to do.”

Qualifying for the Olympics would be another dream come true. Fabiani has family in Paris, and he hails from the southern part of the landlocked country. His swim club in the city of Deifferdeng is nestled against the French border, a four-hour drive from Paris.

Luxembourg appears ready for new blood on the Olympic scene – Laurent Carnol, 33, swam at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Games, escaping prelims in the 200 breast in London; 30-year-old Raphael Stacchiotti has swum at the last four Games. Fabiani remains well back of the A cuts – 21.96 in the 50 free, 48.34 in the 100 – but is hopeful that he can continue his college progress.

Swims like Purdue offer vindication that he’s on the right path.

“I would describe it as, I don’t have the exact words, I wouldn’t say relief but a satisfaction of knowing that there’s always the stress of being at a smaller school and seeing all those big schools compete really well,” he said. “I think being able to qualify and compete there would be very satisfying for me personally, because I know that wherever I am, I can make happen as best as I can, whether that is in Luxembourg or at CBU. It would mean a lot.”