EDITOR’S CHOICE: Category — Sports
Naomi Ruele made Botswana proud this year, by taking her rightful place on the blocks at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games pool. Although Ruele did not advance to the semifinals for the women’s 50m freestyle event, she has nonetheless won her share of medals. Ruele currently holds Botswana’s national record in the 50m and 100m freestyle, as well as 50m and 100m backstroke.
Ruele has been studying and swimming for Florida International University (FIU) in the USA since 2014. On March 20 of this year, she swam a qualifying time of 26.07 in the 50m freestyle event andqualified to represent her home country at the Olympic Games.
During her 2015-16 season at FIU, the Conference USA Swimmer of the Year finished either first or second in the 50m freestyle 12 times. Ruele has posted times under 23 seconds five times, including a 22.33 in the prelims of the C-USA Championships and her record-setting time of 22.23 in the finals.
During the C-USA Championships, Ruele’s performance could not have more flawless, taking gold in each of the seven events in which she swam. Named the C-USA Swimmer of the Meet, she also set two school records during the championships (100m freestyle and 200m freestyle relay).
Ruelehas excelled in a sport that is not traditionally for black people. “Where I come from has never defined me in a swimming competition,” says the 19-year-old swimmer. Her success has “broken down those barriers and shattered glass ceilings which have shown me that the sky is the limit.”
Recently the Botswana National Sports Council named Ruele the Junior Female Sportsperson of the Year. The BNSC noted Ruele’s remarkable achievements in the pool, as well the significant role she plays in inspiring young Batswana to take an interest in the sport.
The Botswana Swimming Sports Association (BSSA) is also extremely proud of Ruele’s achievement and has described her improvement as ‘amazing’. At the young age of 19, this is only the beginning of her career as an outstanding world champion.
Ruele is currently training to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and bring a medal home for Botswana. — CHARMAINE REVAKA