30 May 2018

South Africa: Survivor Ras Digs Deep to Hang On to His Olympic Dream

Talking about facing up to a challenge is the easy part, it's when faced with a setback that real heroes come to the fore.

Tuks swimmer Ruan Ras, who graduated in architecture at the University of Pretoria last year, is someone who doesn't know the meaning of the words 'giving up'.

In 2011, he was diagnosed with cancer.

At the time, he was considered a talented swimmer and that's one of the reasons he was never going to allow the 'Big C' to get the better of him.

Then, his faith was another crucial attributing factor.

According to Ras, he never worried about dying when given his diagnosis. It was more a case of him being upset because he was not able to swim while undergoing chemotherapy.

'I had set myself goals, and suddenly it looked like I wouldn't be able to achieve them - that was frustrating,' said Ras who wasn't able to swim for six months.

Ras was full of praise for how the teachers at TuksSport High School went out their way to ensure he kept up with his studies, even coming to the hospital to tutor him.

In 2012, Ras was told that his cancer was in remission and he was allowed to resume his training in the pool. He also matriculated with seven distinctions.

In spite of his arduous study regime, he's not given up on his dream of representing South Africa at the Olympic Games.

In fact, he's so serious about it that he has made a particular arrangement with his bosses at the Boogertman and Partners Architecture Firm to be able to train and work.

'I work an hour less than my colleagues each day to be able to train. It means I had to take a cut in salary, but it's worth it,' said Ras who trains about four hours a day.

A definite highlight was representing South Africa at the World Student Games in Taipei last year. Rocco Meiring, the man who coached Tatjana Schoenmaker to double Commonwealth Games gold in Australia earlier this year, is coaching him from this year. His goal is to try and qualify for next year's World Championships in the 200m and 400m individual medley.

Listening to Ras talk about his goals and ambitions, one can't help but think he's still going to represent South Africa at a major international gala.

'I love a challenge. That's what makes life interesting. To face up to goals you have set yourself is a definite way to learn what you are truly capable of achieving. Having had cancer made me realise that the biggest mistake anyone can make is to let a setback wear them down. Nothing, however bad it might seem at the time, is insurmountable.

'The secret is to stay true to your dreams and be passionate.'

As an architect, Ras is interested in one day designing a sports facility that will positively impact the athletes who train there.

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