Meet the Olympians: Roxanne Barker
Pepperdine Magazine is the feature magazine for Pepperdine University and its growing community of alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends.
Seaver College senior Roxanne Barker holds a unique place in the roster of Pepperdine Olympians this year, as the only current student on a qualifying team. The senior women’s soccer star plays nationally as goalkeeper for South Africa, where she was born and where her grandfather Bryan Gilson played for the South African National Team in polo. “This is the first women’s South African team sport that has ever qualified for the Olympics,” she says, noting how proud she is of her team. “It’s amazing that a team of girls with so little resources was able to make it. They fought to qualify without much backing and now South Africa is pouring money into the program, and I think they deserve it.”
Barker’s career in soccer began in the first grade when her parents moved the family
from South Africa to Irvine, California, and her new best friend insisted she play
at recess. At first she hated “getting hit in the face” by the ball, but by high school
she had developed her skills enough to become "The Most Valuable Goalie in the Sea
View League" before choosing Pepperdine because of its soccer program.
“Honestly, soccer is a terrible and wonderful game! you can dominate a game, have the ball 90 percent of the time, and still lose. you have to work for every goal and stay focused the whole game, even when the ball is on the other side of the field,” she explains. “But I love the challenge of soccer.”
A few months after Barker committed to Pepperdine, her family moved back to South Africa, and she blossomed on the field where she received WCC All-Freshman honors in her freshman season. The biology major is the school's all-time leader in goals-against average and is a three- time All-WCC selection.
“I feel like my life is just sort of beginning. And I’m excited to be in that Olympic atmosphere. I think it will be a very special experience,” she says, reflecting on how far she has come as a Wave and the path to the London games.
While she has considered applying for U.S. citizenship in the past, with her family back in South Africa and women’s sports just now making progress there, she is excited for the chance to make her home country proud. “Girls in South Africa play soccer for the love of the game and I see a lot of potential in this team. There is no country I’d rather represent than South Africa.”