Manchester University
Oak Leaves

March 1, 2019

ruuska flag

Ruuska presents the Haitian flag at Manchester University’s home swim meet. 

Ruuska to Participate in Pan American Games this Summer

Zoe Vorndran


The cold water washes over his skin as he plunges into the water; the stress rolls off his back as he performs laps in the swimming pool. For Guerby Ruuska, a senior English major and a journalism minor, swimming has been a lifelong passion. Much to Ruuska’s relief and delight, he will compete with the Haitian National Swim Team after graduating in May.

Ruuska was inspired by Naomy Grand’Pierre’s performance as the first Haitian Olympic swimmer during the 2016 Rio Olympics and he became interested in competing for his native country. Ruuska was born in Portau-Prince, Haiti, and adopted by Eric and Elizabeth Ruuska when he was a baby.

After consulting with Grand’Pierre about the process of joining the Haitian National Swim Team, Ruuska began the arduous task of obtaining a Haitian passport, gathering documents and filling out paperwork. When he received the news of his acceptance, Ruuska was relieved. “It was such a long, annoying process, but I was thrilled to finally be signed up,” he said. “My family may be more happy and excited about it than I am to be honest,” he continued, laughing.

Ruuska’s family, along with head coach of Manchester University’s swim team, Michael Kocsis, are definitely excited. “This is an amazing opportunity to continue competing,” Kocsis said. Ruuska’s passion for swimming began when his parents enrolled him and his other siblings in a summer swimming league. Even though his siblings quit, Ruuska continued to swim.

Everything from the effortless, fish-underwater feel to the sore muscles after a hard workout motivates Ruuska. “Nothing feels better than the feeling of satisfaction after a hard workout, going through the rest of the week tired and still pushing through physically,” he said.

Despite his original plans to hang up his cap and goggles, Ruuska sprang at the opportunity to compete on the Haitian National Swim Team. “I wasn’t really planning on swimming post-college, but this all happened and Tokyo 2020 Olympics is coming up,” he said. “Why not shoot for the stars?”

The first step to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is competing in the Pan American Games, a competition featuring summer athletes in the Americas every four years in the year preceding the Summer Olympic Games. The next Pan American Games will occur July 26–Aug. 11, 2019, in Lima, Peru.

Set up by the International Olympic Committee, the Pan American Games were created to help American countries be more competitive. Despite its efforts, the International Olympic Committee was unsuccessful in creating a Pan American Games for winter sports. Ruuska plans to participate for the Haitian National Swim Team and he is looking forward to competing against swimmers from the United States as well as other nations.

“I hear it’s a really neat meet just because of all the culture and the mixture of the small island nations competing,” Ruuska said. For Ruuska, competing and racing motivates him to continue swimming. He loves the way the water tugs him along and all that rushes through his mind as he competes are the words, “fast, fast, fast.”

While on the team, he is also excited about traveling, meeting new people and experiencing different cultures. As an Indiana resident, he stated: “It’s time to get out there and soak in the rest of the world.” He also cannot wait to make more connections within the swimming community. Over the last four years, Ruuska has proved to be an invaluable member of Manchester University’s swim team.

His favorite memories include competing at big meets and supporting his teammates. “Guerby has been an essential part of getting this team started and continuing to help it grow,” Kocsis said. “He acted as my men’s team captain this year and he swam for all four years so having an athlete maintain a presence their entire career is, in my opinion, extremely important for a young program to grow.”

In addition to aiding the team’s growth, Ruuska has been vital in promoting and recruiting athletes around the state. During the 2019 HCAC Swimming and Diving Championships at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Ruuska helped the team, who set 10 school records, by setting a new record in the men’s 100-backstroke with a time of 57.15. In addition, he set a record time by posting 2:12.42 in the men’s 200-backstroke. He also currently holds the second fastest men’s 50 and men’s 100 freestyle record in team history.

Throughout the year, Ruuska has also competed in the mixed 200 yard freestyle relay, mixed 200 yard medley relay team, men’s 100 yard butterfly, and men’s 200 yard individual medley. Even though Ruuska is done competing for Manchester University, new opportunities await as he gears up to compete with the Haitian National Swim Team.

“Haiti is new to swimming, but still, if I represent any country nationally, I want to be good,” Ruuska said. “For a struggling island, sports can be a glimmer of hope. I refuse to be anything other than great.”