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Mixed feelings as Ruele gets Olympic scholarship

CALISTUS KOLANTSHO
There were mixed feelings within some Botswana Swimming Sport Association (BSSA) affiliates after swimmer Naomi Ruele was awarded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) scholarship.

The bursary, awarded through the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) is meant to assist the gifted swimmer prepare for the 2020 Olympics which Japan hosts. Botswana was allocated 12 slots to be distributed amongst Olympic codes and the BSSA submitted eight profiles. The announcement has been met with mixed reactions with some arguing Ruele is already benefiting from other scholarships.

“We have many swimmers who deserve to have been awarded that scholarship, but they could not compete with Ruele. She is already benefiting from other sponsorships. We cannot expect her to win a medal for Botswana anymore. She has tried her best but it was not enough,” a swimming club official said.

The official said they have nothing against Ruele, but felt that there are other swimmers who always clock good times but they do not get any scholarship. She said during the weekend national championships, some swimmers swam good times. The concerned official said it was also unfair for Ruele’s mother to have been involved in the process of submitting names to the BNOC.

“It is a governance issue. Her mother, the current BSSA secretary general, (Bongi) should not have been involved in the process. It does not look good at all,” the official said.

Reacting to the complaint, BSSA president, Ruth van der Merwe said they had sent out applications to all clubs and asked swimmers to submit profiles and applications for the IOC scholarship.

“We received and submitted to the BNOC eight profiles. Ruele does not have any running

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scholarship at the moment. She is our top female athlete. She works very hard everyday to stay at the top. She is moving up the ranks and as she does, she qualifies to apply for any funding or scholarships offered across the board,” van der Merwe said.

She said all the funding programmes have strict criteria that is set out by their governing bodies. She said BSSA only facilities the process and they have no say in the matter. van der Merwe said the Tokyo 2020 scholarship is for the 2020 Olympics and swimming is one of the few sporting codes in Botswana that has athletes being considered for the Olympics. She said they are proud that Ruele has been recognised.

“For BSSA, it is a great development. We have seen more and more girls coming up in the age groups and Ruele’s achievements have been an inspiration to these girls,” she said.

van der Merwe went on to state that Ruele is completing her university studies next year and the IOC scholarship would assist her to continue training in a high profile environment to try and qualify for 2020 Olympics. She urged anyone who has proof that there was something untoward in the application, “they need to step forward now.”

 van der Merwe said while Ruele’s mother was an executive committee member, all applications were forwarded to the BNOC for determination. Meanwhile, BNOC chief executive officer, Tuelo Serufho said they will announce other IOC scholarships beneficiaries tomorrow (Wednesday).



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