Ruele in Rio: swimmer prepares to take on Olympics

Alejandro Solana // Staff Writer

The months of July and August are typically considered to be “boring” months if you’re a fan of sports. Football season hasn’t begun; basketball season has ended, and there’s not much going on in baseball. But every four years, the Summer Olympics takes place in August.

This summer, Panther fans may have a greater incentive to tune in to the Rio 2016 Olympics. FIU will be represented in the games this year, as former and current Panthers are gearing up to compete this August in Rio, Brazil. Redshirt sophomore Naomi Ruele of the FIU swimming team will be in Rio this August, representing not only FIU, but also her home nation of Botswana when she swims in the 50-meter freestyle event.

“I actually didn’t expect this given the fact that I just came back from a shoulder injury,” Ruele said. “I was told I needed to get the surgery but the doctors weren’t completely sure if I would be as successful as I wanted to be.”

Ruele may have had her doubts post-injury, but they didn’t seem to show after her return to the pool. She won seven gold medals in all seven races she competed in at the Conference USA tournament, earning her the title of “Swimmer of the Tournament.”

However, it was her success at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center on March 20, that will always stand out to Ruele. Recording a time of 26.07, during an official Fédération Internationale de Natation approved time trial, secured her a spot in the Olympic pool this August in Rio.

After overcoming her injury and bouncing back, the Botswana “Junior Female Sportswoman of the Year” will have a chance to become the second medalist ever for the nation of Botswana.

Ruele told Student Media in April 2016: “That would be a huge feat. My entire goal was to come and actually make it to the Olympics, so now I can shift my goals to different aspects these next few months. I’m excited to be able to compete.”

The landlocked country of Botswana is home to around two million people. They will be able to watch their first Olympic swimmer compete in August. The country has already begun to take notice of its young star, as Twitter has exploded with support for the Botswana Panther. Ruele says she doesn’t feel any pressure to medal in Rio, but she would love to be able to accomplish that for her country.

Ruele will be a part of a Botswana Olympic roster that will include more than one woman for the first time in the nation’s history. Joining Ruele in Rio will be teammates, Lydia Jele and Christine Botlogetswe, both competing in track.

The 2016 Rio Olympic games begin Aug. 5. The 50-meter freestyle event which Ruele will be competing in is scheduled to take place on Aug. 11, from the Barra da Tijuca Aquatics Stadium.

“Just coming out of my redshirt-freshman season, there’s definitely no pressure on me,” Ruele said. “It is really more about just going out with my heart and race as fast as I can.”

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