South African swimmer Ali Basel takes on senior year at Iowa State

By Megan Teske

Ali Basel came to the United States from South Africa without her parents and overcame shoulder surgery her sophomore year. Now a senior, Basel is looking to help lead her team in what she calls a “comeback season.”

Basel had been dreaming of coming to swim and study in the United States since she was in ninth grade. After being recruited by Iowa State from her club team based in Johannesburg, South Africa, her dream became a reality a mere three years ago. Basel now swims the mid-distance freestyle as well as the 200 individual medley and as she looks forward to the season ahead, she hopes to help her team secure a spot in the top three at the Big 12 Championship.

“We don’t really have a college structure at home,” Basel said. “If I wanted to go to university and swim, I would have to do swimming on my own time with a club.”

For Basel, that wasn’t an option. She said she wanted to swim and study at the same time, and she believed the NCAA system was one of the best around, so she decided to put herself on a recruiting website.

That website was where assistant coach Kelly Nordell, who is also the lead recruiter for the team, first saw her. 

“[Basel’s] coach Peter Williams swam at Nebraska, so I was connected to Peter,” Nordell said. “Duane [Sorenson] had some South Africans here previously so we’ve had good results and good relationships with them and from there, that’s how it all started.”

Basel said making the move from South Africa to the United States wasn’t too difficult. Similar to the United States, Basel said South Africa has a fairly western culture, so in terms of adjusting to her new country, it wasn’t too different — apart from having to learn which side of the road to drive on.

Although she had to overcome a shoulder injury after her sophomore season, Basel said her biggest accomplishment was making it the United States to swim and study. 

“It’s so competitive; 15-year-old me was very determined to get this goal,” Basel said. “It was a huge accomplishment for me when I was able to continue swimming and studying.”

Her coaches said otherwise. Head coach Duane Sorenson said he thinks Basel’s biggest accomplishment was overcoming her surgery after her sophomore year, and Nordell agreed.

“She was very resilient coming back,” Sorenson said. “The surgery is always ‘she may not come back, she may not ever swim again.’”

Read more from source Iowa State Daily