Swimmer Naomi Ruele earned the Botswana Swimming Sports Association (BSSA) kudos recently when she qualified for the Rio Olympics, becoming the first swimmer from Botswana to achieve the historic feat.
The 19 year old made the historic breakthrough in the ladies 50m freestyle, clocking an amazing 26:07 seconds at the NCCA Championships at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Centre in Atlanta. Ruele will now be part of the Botswana team at the Olympics, alongside Nigel Amos, Isaac Makwala and Baboloki Thebe. The swimming sensation, who currently resides in Florida, USA earned Botswana’s first Olympic berth after a series of spectacular performances that saw her being crowned swimmer of the year at Florida International University (FIU) early last month. Prior to making it to the Olympic finals, she narrowly missed out of the Olympics qualifying time with 0.08s after clocking 26:25s a week ago at the Orlando Pro-swim series. On top form, Ruele set new records during the championships in the 100m freestyle and 200m freestyle relay.
BSSA President Ruth Van Der Merwe told The Telegraph that Ruele made them proud by promoting a relatively uncommon sport in the country to qualify for such a major event.
“Ruele’s qualification means a lot to the Association. As a young sport, to have a swimmer qualifying for the Olympics is a big achievement. We are pleased that Ruele will inspire a lot of youngsters who never thought they could make it in swimming,” said Van Der Merwe.
She added that Botswana has a lot of talent in swimming which only needs to be nurtured and guided from grassroots level. “We believe in the young talent that is coming up. If we keep them focused, we will be able to see a few Ruele’s in future. This is the first swimmer in the country to qualify for the Olympics so we believe we can do better with more swimmers qualifying in future,” she said.
She explained that Ruele made it in the 50m freestyle at a B time of 26.07 and further expressed hope that she will get faster as she intensifies training for the bigger stage.
“Hopefully she will get an A standard. We can definitely say in Africa she is amongst the top elite. She continues to work hard and is always focused and she is growing from strength to strength,” said van Der Merwe.
For her part, BSSA Secretary General Sibongile Ruele, who happens to be the swimmer’s mother excitedly revealed that it was not a walk in the park for Ruele to be a jewel that she is.
“We are very grateful as a family and the sports fraternity. Ruele is the first Motswana to make it to the Olympic Games in swimming. It was not easy for her to reach this stage. We used to wake up in the wee hours of the morning for her to train. Now she is maturing into a swimming star,” she said.