Next up in our Fresh & Hungry Series is Ruan Ras, SWIMMER and Youth Sports brand name in South Africa, I am so delighted to chat to him. He ranks within the elite top 10 in swimming in SA and internationally for his main strokes. In him I sense so much “joie de vivre”. A friendly, open, eager, passionate, determined, most humble and life embracing young champion. Ruan Ras is also one of SA’s brightest minds, a true young academic master who passed his matric – Class of 2014 with flying colours, having obtained 7 Distinctions – “dit wil gedoen wees”, at Tuks Sport High School! This, amazingly while not slacking off at all on his swimming focus during his matric year. The latter almost unbelievable, but indeed proving a point about the multiple value of sports for our youth, confirming that discipline in one area affects all areas of life.
Ruan is a strong willed, determined and balanced athlete, is a true example of inspiration for many of our youth and for me personally. He is grounded and finds his inner strength and peace by his strong Faith in Jesus Christ. He clearly has a resolve of steel, having overcome cancer in 2011, a true champion in and out of the water. He also has a number of overseas meets under his belt that left him deeply inspired to train harder and aim higher. Ruan hits the grindstone daily as he faces his tough first year at university while diligently continuing his swimming training. He really strikes me as one of those people “who just gets on with the task at hand”. As Nike says – Just Do It!
PS – he is also a foodie of note – Ruan, can we expect a nice “Rassie’s Cookbook” from you in the future?
Read on for this amazing full story:
You are passionate and doing so well in your swimming, tell me a little bit about how you started in swimming and your journey in the swimming arena up to now?
Being born into a family which is crazy about fitness I have been in the water since I can remember. It was not long until I discovered my passion for the sport and soon started competing in various Mpumalanga galas. In grade 7, I started off at TUKS Swimming with Coach Rocco Meiring, who spotted me through my older sister, Rochelle, who also swam with him. His belief in me is what really, for the first time, stirred my dreams of one day becoming an Olympic swimmer. Since then I have made it a life goal to reach that dream and I am slowly but surely seeing the progress with the help of my current TUKS Coach – Igor Omeltchenko.
What is the highest accolade you have received in swimming, and what is your greatest personal accomplishment?
Placing 5th in the country at last year’s Senior Nationals and finishing 6th in one of my events at the Hong Kong leg of the FINA World Cup 2014.
My greatest personal accomplishment would have to be surviving cancer in 2011. I was diagnosed with burkitt’s lymphoma cancer after spotting a tumor in my stomach. I was out of action for 9 months, but by the grace of God, was able to keep chasing my dreams after being declared clean on January 5th, 2012.
You have travelled outside SA before for swimming. What does travelling do for your mind / perspective on things?
I had my first international competition at the Canet and Barcelona leg of the Mare Nostrum Series last year. I had underestimated the difference between local galas and international meets. When I got there the entire atmosphere around pool deck (as well as the pressure) was heightened. Swimming among many of the greats in the swimming world and watching their races live was an unbelievable learning experience. When I got back to SA, the way I handled myself at local galas had completely changed. The overseas experience definitely gave me a boost of confidence. Racing against the big guys was intimidating, but also showed me how far I still have to go to get to where I want to be – that made me excited to get back into training and to work even harder.
Later last year I competed at the World Cup in Hong Kong, and from what I had learnt I was able to compose myself and handle the pressure much better than before. Huge stepping stone.
How do you manage to fit in both sports and academics into your schedule, especially being at University this year?
I won’t lie, balancing Architecture studies and swimming training is quite tough, but staying focused on the bigger goal gets me through every hurdle at the end of the day. When you are doing things you are passionate about, it doesn’t always seem like hard work.
Beside your swimming, what do you have a passion for?
Like I’ve said, architecture is another major passion, as well as sports, fitness and health in general, but I would have to say food tops the list (especially after a Saturday morning training session).
Tell me one thing about Ruan Ras that the world does not know?
I have a secret way of getting through extremely long, high mileage training sessions: I sing underwater while I swim to keep me energized… Probably the reason why I have been asked numerous times “were you shouting underwater…I heard someone shouting?” (don’t tell my coach…)
What do you do to relax?
Is it bad that food is my answer again? Haha! Also, doing anything with family always helps to calm the nerves.
Which athlete/ athletes inspire you?
Naturally, Ryan Lochte and the level he has reached in swimming has and always will act as a motivator for me. But I usually base my role models on the way people live their lives and not only on their achievements. Karin Prinsloo is one of the few who fit that description. Her humble nature despite having achieved so much in her swimming definitely inspires me. Also, her faith and trust in God and the way in which she gives Him all the glory is something to look up to.
What is your personal favourite motivational quote?
Don’t downgrade your dream to match your reality. Upgrade your faith to match your destiny.
What is your favourite Bible Verse?
Two that got me through 2011: “You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength” – Phil 4.13 and “ ”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29.11
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Do more of what you love and do it for the Lord.
What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?
Time management: like I said earlier, trying to juggle academics and swimming. I think it is important to know when you need to keep pushing and when you need to rest. Sometimes rest is the best thing you can do to prevent you from burning out and ultimately giving up. We are not robots – fun is just as important as food and sleep. Read the Bible when you are struggling to cope – it may take some time out of your day, but in the end that’s what will get you through it.
When you’ve had a tough / bad day, what lifts you up again?
Spending some time with family. With a hectic schedule, it is vital that you have a strong support system. If possible, quiet time alone with myself and my Bible always does the trick.
I’m sure you have many things going on right now, what’s to be expected next from Ruan Ras?
From here on out, its full blown training and late nights of study ahead. I am keen to see my performances at SA short course nationals in July. The main focus right now is to keep edging closer and closer to the World Champs qualifying times (as a personal goal) with every opportunity I get, so that in a few years, that dream can become a reality.
Anything else you would like to share?
Just a message to other swimmers: swimming isn’t your life. It’s a part of your life. Do your best and work as hard as you possibly can, but don’t take it too seriously. It is much easier to be successful in something which you enjoy doing. Thanks again, God bless.
Thank you so much Ruan for taking this interview. We would like to wish you all the best for your sports and academic journey ahead. We look forward to following you as you go from strength to strength. Blessings!