Sienna Nobile, one of Siren’s emerging sportswriters, catches up with Traralgon swimmer Ruby Storm who’s preparing for the Tokyo Paralympics.
I met 17-year-old Australian swimmer Ruby Storm in my first year of high school in Traralgon (regional Victoria). Her family lived three houses down from mine and her older sister, Issie, and I were best friends. Ruby and Issie had swim training a lot while we were growing up. I’d often get messages from Issie when she woke for training, as early as 5am, and would hear the family’s car drive up the street as late as 9pm —signalling the end of the particularly busy days where the two girls also endured land training sessions. Probably around the same time I was sneaking into the kitchen for a before-bed snack.
I always wondered how they could function on so little sleep and still do so much training in the pool. But looking at Ruby’s Instagram page with her medals displayed proudly and sharing her PBs—it’s easy to see that all that dedication was worth it.
“Back in the early days, I only trained twice a week with some competitions on the weekend,” Ruby explains, even though it seemed like a lot more to me back when I woke up to way-too-early-in-the-morning texts, to her it’s nothing compared to the level of training she does now. Fast forward to the present, Ruby trains on a 21-day cycle —17 days straight and then four days off.
Ruby Storm is currently one of the youngest members of the Australian Dolphins swim team and is off to her first Paralympic Games. Success hasn’t been unfamiliar to Ruby as she already carries more than a few medals under her belt. Ruby won the 200m freestyle event at the 2018 Para Pan Pac trials and collected medals in all her 10 events at national champs, a silver medal in 200m freestyle at the 2019 World Para Swimming World Series and a bronze in the Mixed 4x100m Freestyle Relay (S14) World Para Championship team in 2019. But like most future Olympians, there’s one particular medal on Ruby’s mind.
“My motivation is to achieve a gold medal at the Paralympics.”
Even before the impacts of COVID-19 put a worldwide pause on a number of sports, Tokyo was still seen as a possibility for this young swimmer. A pandemic wasn’t going to distract her from her Paralympic dream and take away all those early mornings and late nights.
“After making the Worlds 2019 team, it brought my goal forward to make the Paralympics. I initially was aiming to make it to Paris in 2024, but swimming at an international level in 2019 made me think I could possibly make the team for Tokyo.”
Ruby received a scholarship with the Para High-Performance Squad at the USC Spartans in 2020 and moved to the Sunshine Coast in October to continue her training through the COVID-19 pandemic. To accept the scholarship and opportunity to keep training, Ruby had to say goodbye to home and move in with a host family.
“I didn’t know them before I arrived on the Sunshine Coast. But they were very kind to me.” This was a big step for Ruby — but it wasn’t long before her mum, sister and younger brother arrived in December to be with her and continue their support of the star swimmer. However, Ruby had to leave behind her precious puppy in Traralgon. The beloved pet was the product of a deal made with Ruby’s parents before the 2019 London World Para Swimming Championships.
“Ruby made a bet with mum and dad before she left,” her sister Issie explained.
“If she won a medal in London, mum and dad will let her get a dog.”
I remember this story from 2019 and we all giggled about it back then when the deal was made. When I think of Ruby in the years since, this is the story I remember most, as behind the laughter, we all knew that Ruby was more than capable of greatness. And she won the medal to prove it. If Ruby’s motivation for London was her promised pup, just imagine the motivation she has leading into these Paralympics.
All eyes are on her as the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics competition begins on the 25th of August. Although the COVID-19 restrictions have caused some nerves, Ruby’s first and favourite event is the 100m butterfly, which is keeping her grounded.
“I am probably best at butterfly,” she admits. “My favourite strokes are butterfly and freestyle.”
Her coach Nathan Doyle has told her to “have fun”, which I’m sure she’ll be able to do when she is swimming her heart out in the strokes she loves, living her Paralympic dream with Australia cheering her on.