Ruby Storm has lived up to her name, recently taking the Paralympic Swimming world by storm, and has also just been announced as a Virtus Oceania Asia Games 2022 athlete ambassador.
While she isn’t competing at the Games, the young swimmer is looking forward to supporting other athletes and seeing them make big waves in their sporting careers, just like she has.
“As a young girl in Traralgon Victoria, Ruby was terrified of water and the only way we could get her to swimming was when her older sister, Issie, was having swimming lessons and Ruby would watch and then copy; and that’s how she started swimming,” said her mum Fiona.
“She taught herself to swim when she was seven or eight when we were on holiday and from then she was always wanting to beat everyone in a race,” Fiona adds.
The early journey that culminated at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, like any other elite swimmer, was filled with early morning rises and evening sessions, clocking up countless kilometres in the pool, the majority of which happened at the Morwell Leisure Centre.
But Ruby now knows that those early morning rises were certainly worth it – and ironically the ‘eat, sleep, swim, repeat’ lifestyle was certainly a far cry from the same Storm who was initially too scared to even hop into a pool.
In 2019 at the World Para Swimming Championships in London, Ruby, as an S14 classified swimmer, made her international debut for Australia at 15 as one of the youngest members of the Australian team, where she won a bronze medal as a member of the Mixed 4 × 100 m Freestyle Relay S14. She also competed in the 200m Freestyle, 100m Breaststroke, 200m Individual Medley and 100m Butterfly.
At the Tokyo 2022 Paralympics, held in 2021 due to COVID, Storm was again on the podium winning her first individual bronze medal for the 100m Butterfly, and then a silver medal when she teamed up with Madeleine McTernan, Ricky Betar and Benjamin Hance in the Mixed 4 x 100 m freestyle S14. They were just under 6 seconds behind the winners, Great Britain, who set a world record. She also made the finals in her other three individual events swimming personal best times in all but one race.
Ahead of the Tokyo 2022 Paralympics, 2022 World Para Swimming Championships in Madeira and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Ruby moved to the Queensland Sunshine Coast Spartans Club to be coached by Nathan Doyle. With COVID shutting Victorian pools down for over 9 months the plan for Ruby to relocate north was brought forward so she could continue to train and hopefully be selected for the Tokyo Paralympics. Moving to Queensland during COVID presented many obstacles such as hotel quarantine, finding somewhere for her to live until her family moved here and continuing school online.
“I moved from Traralgon to the Sunshine Coast, training hard and working in a new environment I haven’t worked in before. It’s been pretty tough,” Ruby said, “but I’m just excited to see what I can do.”
“My former coach, Dean Gooch, definitely helped me learn how to swim fast and I am grateful to him as he started my career,” she said. “Without him and the community in Traralgon, I don’t know where I would be at the moment.”
“I’m so stoked, when they told me ‘Ruby, you’ve made it’, it was so amazing,” she said.
“It’s great that the Paralympics has grown; hopefully it keeps on growing to be like the Olympics,” she said.
Living with autism has presented challenges for Storm and is very grateful she can compete internationally in the Paralympics. Having an invisible disability can be difficult for people to be accepting and understanding.
“It’s great that people from all walks of life have the chance to succeed in their chosen sport in front of an audience and that even a swimmer with autism like me, can represent her country at the highest level,” Storm said.
Not only has Ruby been representing her country in the pool, but she is also very proud of her Indigenous heritage. Ruby is from the Wiradjuri tribe in Deniliquin but grew up on the lands of the Gunaikurnai people in Traralgon. Ruby created a slice of history in Birmingham when she was only the second Indigenous Para-swimmer to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games.
Although swimming is still her main focus, Ruby would like to be a Florist after she hangs up her cap and goggles.