50-year-old Siphiwe Baleka may be a truck driver, but in 2021 he is hoping to add another title to his repertoire – Olympic swimmer.
Baleka grew up as a competitive swimmer, and was winning state championships by the time he was 12, but after failing to qualify for the Olympic trials by eight-tenths of a second back in 1992, he essentially quit the sport.
“In 1992, I missed qualifying for the Olympic trials by eight-tenths of a second and that pretty much ended my career,” he explained to ABC 7 News.
After dropping out of Yale and quitting swimming, Baleka traveled the world for a bit, but wasn’t sure where to go from there, so he decided to travel the world in another way – by becoming a truck driver.
“I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t working and I had been traveling the world and I didn’t have much of a standard resume so a friend suggested I drive a truck,” Baleka said.
“He said it would be a good fit for me and I got into truck driving and I loved it.”
“I loved it, it was a great experience, but I very quickly started gaining a lot of weight,” Baleka said.
“I realized I had to take responsibility and I started working out again,” and that’s when Baleka took up swimming again.
After a while of swimming for health, Baleka got the competitive itch once again. He says it all started back up in 2011 when he thought to himself ‘I wonder how fast I can swim,’ and after that, he jumped back into competitive swimming.
By 2015, he says he was winning National Swimming Championships. Then, in January of 2020, he traveled to Guinea-Bissau, where his ancestors originated, and was asked to represent the country as a swimmer in the summer Olympics.
Although Guinea-Bissau has never had a swim team, the National Olympic Committee has already announced that it intends to add Baleka to the team, and is working to get him his citizenship so he can officially be a part of their Olympic team during the 2021 Olympics.