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A fish out of water

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A fish out of water

Swimming sensation and Olympic hopeful Naomi Ruele talks about the frustrations of lockdown in the USA

Just two months ago when the world was something like normal, Naomi Ruele was on the brink of qualifying for her second Olympic Games.

Now with the restrictions of Covid-19 all that is on hold. However, Botswana’s only female swimmer to qualify for the global games remains hopeful that when the shackles are off, she will again rise to the occasion.

At the age of 23, Mochudi born Naomi has no equal as the most decorated swimmer to come out of Botswana.

It is a remarkable journey that began at a pool in a Gaborone hotel.

Speaking to Voice Sport she revealed, “My passion for swimming started at a very tender age. I used to swim at my mom’s workplace at the Grand Palm, and it was mainly for fun. But the love developed and I took it from there.”

The ‘there’ has now taken her to the USA and the Florida International University together with a CV that makes an impressive entry on the pages of Wikipedia.

“I got an opportunity to go to the USA to study and do professional swimming by emailing a couple of Universities. So many University coaches wanted me to be in their respective teams. I got enrolled at Florida, and everything transitioned quickly as I was introduced to impressive training facilities, a coach, physical therapy and sports psychology which played a vital role in my performance as a swimmer,” she said.

Quizzed about her biggest achievement so far, she said, “Being chosen as Conference USA Swimmer of the Year winner for four consecutive years, Botswana Junior Sports woman of the year and the AUSC Region 5 Sports woman of the year are all highlights.”

But qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics in the woman’s 50 metre freestyle, which saw her ranked 47th in the world, has been her crowning glory to date.

“The atmosphere of the Olympics was out of this world. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It is an empowering experience and something I will forever cherish being surrounded by some of the best athletes in the world. I was very nervous for the entire time I was there though. It can be overwhelming and often you doubt yourself. But overall an amazing experience.”

Her appearance on the international stage is one she is itching to repeat.

“Just a week before everything paused due the Covid-19, I had a solid training plan with my coach to prepare for the upcoming Olympic qualifiers. My confidence was really high.” she added.

A fish out of water
FLYING FISH: Ruele in action

At the moment she admits to being something of a fish out of water and can’t wait to get back into the pool.

“Right now my focus is to stay fit and work with my coach on a plan to train when I get a chance and move forward. All the pools are closed and it’s not very safe to go outside, but I train indoors with some home workouts and I have some equipment,” she said.

Talking of the situation in Florida where she lives with housemates, “because it’s more cost effective than living alone,” she is concerned by the number of Covid related deaths in the USA.

“It’s very scary when you see the figures but I am very safe as I stay in a secure environment. I just hope everything gets back to normal so that I start competing again,” she said.

Although she would not be drawn on questions regarding her social life or politics – “These are personal questions that I’d rather keep to myself!” – she did admit to feeling somewhat homesick at times.

“I come home to Bots once or twice a year. I miss my family, friends and Setswana food.”

But having experienced life in Florida and New York she adds, “I like the diversity of living in a big city and being exposed to different cultures. Being here is not really as different as everyone makes it out to be.”

Naomi admits to speaking with an American accent in which, “My Botswana accent seems to seep through still,” and although she holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Communication from the University of Florida, still her greatest dream is to hold an Olympic swimming medal.

At a time when all of us are dreaming of better things, we wish her all the success in the world.

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BFA welcomes COVID-19 stipend

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BFA welcomes COVID-19 stipend

On Monday Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC), Tumiso Rakgare revealed the government’s plan to help the elite and second-tier leagues with player’s salary subsidies respectively.

Minister Rakgare stated that 25 players of all the 16 teams in the BTC premiership will be paid P2, 500 whilst first division players will each receive P1, 500 for the months of April. May and June.

Teams were expected to submit the required documentation for verification and due processes this week.

The Minister said it was inevitable for government to intervene as sports was the first discipline to be affected by Covid-19, citing the Mares Under 17 trip to Morocco that never materialized.

The Mares were scheduled to face their Moroccan counterparts for a return leg of the FIFA World Cup qualifier in March.

He further revealed that the subsidy is part of the P70 million set aside by the ministry to cushion the impact of Covid-19.

BFA welcomes COVID-19 stipend
SPORTS MINISTER: Rakgare

“The subsidy is only for Batswana players, technical and office staff and monies will be directly deposited to player’s bank accounts to avoid situations where teams might use such funds for their daily expenses,” he said.

He further revealed that referees will be assisted through the FIFA relief fund as agreed with BFA.

Letshwiti hailed the intervention, which he said will cushion the effects of the pandemic on the socio- economic lifestyles of players and technical members involved in running of the clubs.

“This will also go a long way in giving club leaders a reprieve during this challenging time,” he said.

The BFA President said club leaders and owners are custodians of football events and this financial assistance is critical in sustaining players and eventually the clubs they represent.

“The BFA is truly humbled by this noble gesture of unity. We have since availed P40,000 to BPL clubs as a reprieve to help clubs mitigate these devastating consequences,” he saud.

He further said, together with their partners, including government, they continue to discuss sustainable means to get football out of the woods.

“We truly are encouraged by the posture adopted by Honorable Minister Rakgare in finding the most reasonable and practical solution to the problems football faces in the country,” Letshwiti said.

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Teranga lions’ world cup legend retires

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Teranga lions’ world cup legend retires

Montpellier’s veteran former Senegal attacker Souleymane Camara has retired after 13 seasons with the side, club president Laurent Nicollin said on Monday.

Camara, 37, played a record 423 times for the outfit where he won the Ligue 1 title in 2012 and made the last of his 35 international appearances in the same year.

“We spoke on Friday and the decision was taken,” Nicollin told A French newspaper.

“He’s now thinking about what he’ll do next. We’ve given him some time to know what he wants to do, if he wants to coach here. We’ve left the door open,” he added.

Camara started his career with Monaco in 2001 before a loan spell at Guingamp and joining Nice four years later.

He was part of the Senegal squad which beat the then holders France en route to the historic 2002 World Cup quarter-finals.

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