Long Island Teen Aims for 2016 Olympics

Jonathan Ruiz (Photo via La Tribuna Hispana)

Jonathan Ruiz (Photo via La Tribuna Hispana)

Jonathan Ruiz, a 17-year-old Salvadoran-American who lives in Freeport, Long Island, is sure of one thing: if a person wants to succeed in life, he has to work hard, and that is what Jonathan is doing. While other young men like him go home after school to watch TV or distract themselves playing in the world of the Internet, Jonathan trains for his favorite sport, swimming, for 3-4 hours each day, six days a week. He takes a break only on Sundays to enjoy time with his family.

“I started practicing swimming three years ago. At that time I entered the 9th grade at Freeport High School and I had to choose a sport. I tried basketball, but they didn’t admit me onto the team. I tried freestyle wrestling, but I didn’t like it. A coach gave me the opportunity to practice swimming, and I haven’t stopped since then,” he said.

Jonathan is currently in his last year of high school at one of the schools in Nassau County, which has a large Latino student body. His parents came to this country fleeing the armed conflict that was devastating El Salvador in the 1980s. And although he was born here, he deeply admires the culture of his ancestors. His brother Alex, older than him by one year, studies medicine and aspires to become a doctor who helps his community.

“In swimming, time is money,” said Jonathan, not only for what it means but also to set the pace for what he must achieve. He is currently only 0.3 seconds away from qualifying for an interstate championship within his category, which will happen in June in Virginia.

His coach believes he can achieve great things since he is one of the few swimmers in his category that can manage very well in different races like freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly. In fact, he performs best in the 200-meter race, but he also does so in the traditional 100-meter freestyle, and others.

Having been considered the best swimmer in 2012 and 2013, his name is well known in the world of swimming, not only on Long Island where he is considered to be the best swimmer, but also in New York as a public figure with a great future in this sport.

Swimming has produced famous swimmers in this country such as Mark Spitz, who won seven gold medals at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972, breaking a world record with every one of his victories. He was the first athlete in the history of the Olympic Games to achieve such a feat in a single game, until Beijing in 2008, when Michael Phelps, also an American swimmer, beat him.

The Goal: Brazil 2016

So far, Jonathan has won many awards and prizes, having participated in local competitions at the high school-level and also in swimming clubs, but his biggest dream is to join the American Olympic team and represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games in Brazil in 2016.

“It’s my big dream and I train very hard every day for it. I believe that this sacrifice will be rewarded someday,” said Jonathan, one of the few Latino youth practicing this sport, which is dominated by whites and African-Americans.

In a short while, he has managed to become truly promising, thanks to the times he recorded in the various races, keeping in mind that those who are famous in this sport started out at a very young age, as is the case for the great Spitz, whom he admires.

But he is also sure that it’s a long way toward the goal he has set for himself, in which every day matters.

“I get up very early to go to school, then to the library where I do my homework. When I finish I go to practice at the swimming pool. It’s a routine I do Monday to Friday. Saturdays I go to the gym to supplement my training. That is to say, I try to always do a little more than what is usually asked of me, because I know that will make the difference in my results,” said Jonathan.

Every day he swims an average of 7,000 yards, which at 17 years of age has given him an impressive physique that he has also balanced with a surprising intellectual achievement.

Jonathan hopes to go to college. In fact, he’s already started to apply to several. He would like to study sports medicine, something related to his passion for sports.

“I would like to go to Stony Brook University or some college in Buffalo, New York, to study what I want. We’ll see what happens later on, although I have a scholarship offer to go to the University of Ohio,” he said.

His mother, María Soto, is very proud of Jonathan’s achievements. She said he has always been a good student, dedicated and diligent like his older brother Alex, the family’s future doctor.

“I’m the one who brings him to the pool every day to train, and sometimes when he gets home very tired and doesn’t feel like doing anything, after a while he tells me: Mom, let’s go to the pool, I have to train.”

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