Success Stories

Martha Ruether

RuetherFrom Edmonton to Glasgow, Pasadena to Atlanta and any one of a hundred cities in between, Martha Ruether has logged an impressive number of frequent flyer miles.That happens when you compete at the top of your sport and are afforded the opportunity to represent your country at various World Championship events.

And while the 20-year-old Allegany-Limestone graduate says she’s never felt nerves while competing, the goals this week offer her an opportunity to challenge that claim.

Over the next three days at the Mecklenburg Aquatics Center in Charlotte, NC, Ruether will compete in three events, trying to make the cut as a member of the United States Paralympic Team that will compete in the 2016 Paralympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro later this summer.

“EVERY athlete has his or her own way of dealing with these kind of challenges,” Ruether noted. “The pressure is there because it’s trials for the Paralympic Games.

“But on the other hand, it’s still just another swim meet. To me, it’s no different then when you try to make any other team

“Yes, this is an important team. But I think the pressure exists more because everybody else ramps it up. I’m OK with it.”

“What it comes down to, at least for me,” she said, “is the fact that there’s an experience factor involved. When you’ve been in a lot of meets, a lot of big meets, you are no doubt going to have a bad swim here and there. Things won’t go quite the way you hoped they would.

“I look back to Glasgow last year when I got disqualified on my very first swim at the World Paralympic Championships. I swam my career best, but it didn’t count. I had to shake that off and get back on the starting block for my next event as if nothing had happened.”

“I spoke to my dad on Sunday and he told me that my mom was getting nervous,” Ruether, who has spent the last two years in Colorado Springs training at the United State Olympic Training Center, related. “He told me that he told her, ‘Now, don’t be nervous around Martha. She’s going to be fine.’

“And I will be. It’s the same thing I’ve done a thousand other times. It’s just that you’re doing it in a different place under different circumstances.”

Ruether’s first event this week will be the 100 breaststroke Thursday morning, followed by the 50 freestyle on Friday and the 100 freestyle on Saturday.

Her career best are 1:23.98, :28.21 and 1:01.74, respectively. The world paralympic records in those three events are 1:17.32, :27.38 and :58.87.

“WE GOT A new coach, Nathan Manley, in February so that was a bit of an adjustment because he has a day-to-day mantra that’s a little different from the coach we had before (Jack Fabian),” Ruether said. “We tapered back over the last two weeks, but kept the intensity level up on short sprints. The goal was to stay on top of our technique.

“It’s been a plus for me because coach Manley had tried to downplay the ‘Trials’ aspect of this meet. That’s what I’m trying to do. There are so many people that keep throwing that word in your face, ‘It’s trials, trials, trials.’

“But he’s been delivering the same message I feel we need in Charlotte. It’s just another meet,” she said.

“My goal this week is to try to swim three personal bests. Trying to beat yourself is always a good goal. If you get a personal best, you can’t expect anything better. I think trying to focus and keep my technique strong. There are a lot of little points that we hit on in practice every day. Small things that most people probably never consider as important. It’s everything you do … it becomes part of a ritual and when you follow through on it, you know you didn’t sway off course.”

Ruether added, “Another big factor is focusing on my races and not worrying about anybody else in the pool. That’s something I’ve learned in these past two years. It’s very easy to get caught up in the moment. You need to take a step back and focus on what you’re doing no matter what pool you’re in, what city you’re in or what meet it is.”

Most of the competition at this week’s Paralympic Trials will be streamed online and the United States Team will be announced on national television Sunday.

“Sunday will certainly be a big day for me,” Ruether admitted. “Plus, it’s my birthday.”

What a gift that would be.


Martha Ruether, a recipient of the Jonathan Teuscher Scholarship, continues to inspire and amaze the community. We at the Foundation are proud to see her succeeding in so many ways.

May 30, 2015
By JIM MELARO, Olean Times Herald
OLEAN — Martha Ruether insists she’s still getting used to the “celebrity status” that accompanies an athlete of national acclaim.

The former Allegany-Limestone swimming standout has spent most of the last two years traveling the globe as one of America’s top competitors on the United State Paralympic training squad.

Her goal is to make the USA’s A team that will compete in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Two weeks ago, during a short visit home, the 20-year-old freestyle specialist (she is currently ranked 1st in the United States and 3rd in the world in the 50-meter freestyle at :28.63) took time to speak to some of Birdie Keenan Skrobacz’s students at the Olean Intermediate Middle School.

In just over an hour, Ruether left an inspirational impression.

Skrobacz had her students write thank-you letters to Ruether.

NOTED Skrobacz, “Martha’s demeanor was fantastic for middle schoolers. She spoke about being blind and being a world-class swimmer. To be honest, my students didn’t feel sorry for Martha (and she would not want that), rather, they embraced her message which was: ‘If you want to do something, don’t let anything or anybody stand in your way.’

“Throughout Martha’s presentation, you could hear a pin drop because she held their attention from beginning to end. It was a remarkable opportunity for my students to hear how hard you have to work for something in life, but the rewards are worth the hard work.”

Following are some excerpts from some of the letters. It’s interesting to note the different observations the students gleaned from Ruether’s presentation.

The students’ excerpts:
• Melanie Kauhk: “The speech you gave was really touching because no matter what, anybody can do something even if we are different from each other. You really amazed me because no matter how different you are, you can achieve anything you want.”
• Adam: “You are such an inspiration. Knowing that you can’t see and still swim is amazing. When people say they can’t do something, they should get advice from you.”
• Jillian Stevens: “You mentioned that you swim with other people who can’t see or who don’t have limbs. You mentioned that you were grateful that you have your limbs. … You told us the story about how you were in the locker room with the other ladies and they were complaining about their weight, you said, ‘Hey, at least you can see! Wake up and enjoy life! Be grateful for the abilities that you have instead of the ones that you don’t.’ … If I learned one thing from your speech it was that. You even made jokes about your disability instead of worrying or being mad about it. You are an amazing and inspiring woman.”
• Isabelle Crosson: “I am a seventh grader and next year I am going to be on varsity swimming. I am blind in my left eye, and your speech inspired me to try harder and to never give up.”
• Brookelinn Garey: “A lot of your stories made me laugh, like when you said supermodels could use some Big Macs.”
• Unsigned: “You inspired my classmates. When you were talking, you should have seen the looks on their faces. They had many smiles. … if I could describe you in only three words, they would be determined, courageous and brave.”
• Joshua Hill: “When people watch you, they would think, ‘Wow! Look how amazingly she swims.’ Clearly, you are a marvelous fish.”
• Kyle Pockalny: “I can’t believe that even with your blindness you don’t let it hold you back. By the way, I loved the blue in your hair.”
• Meere Kataotao: “Watching you smile and enjoy yourself with a care-free attitude brightened my day. Somehow, I felt like life wasn’t that bad. Thinking about how you gently pushed away the ruthless negativity was a true marvel to me. At first glance, I would have thought that everything came hard for you, but I was gravely mistaken. You are stronger than most girls I know even with your disadvantages. I wonder if I could overcome challenges like you do. … I also hope you realize how you can easily put a smile on other people’s faces. That part of you is my favorite. You seemed so care-free and kind. You inspire me in so many different ways.”

IT WOULD seem that, when Ruether’s competitive days are behind her, she’s got a career as a motivational speaker waiting in the wings.

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