Boati Motau '25 playing water polo

Boati Motau ’25, Biology

July 12, 2021

Olympic water polo player Boati Motau '25 chose Bucknell for its commitment to training athletes' minds as well as their bodies. Photo courtesy of the Rodean School for Girls

It was important to me to choose a school where my sport wouldn’t get in the way of my education or vice versa. Bucknell really emphasized the fact that I could play at the highest college level and still put my all into my studies.

Seasoned water polo player Boati Motau '25 didn't always love being in the water. In fact, she might have never jumped in the pool at all without persistent encouragement from her parents, who were eager to see Motau excel at swimming.

"It's actually quite funny — the reason I even tried out water polo was because it looked a lot more interesting than what I was doing on the swim team," says the incoming first-year student-athlete from Johannesburg, South Africa.

The fast-paced, aggressive nature of the sport immediately hooked Motau, who began playing competitively with a provincial water polo team at age 11. What began as a splash of curiosity has since evolved into a lifelong mission to become one of the best players in her country — a mission Motau accomplished when she was, at 18, named to the South African women's water polo team for the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"The Olympics is something I've dreamed about since childhood, and I always told myself I'd get there," Motau says. "I just never imagined the dream would come true so soon."

All Sweat, No Sacrifice

Motau is a force in her position on the right wing, where her left-handed throws pose a surprising offensive threat. That prowess not only helped the South African under-17 team win second place at the 2019 EU Nations Water Polo Cup but also led her high school team to a third-place national finish in 2020.

When looking for the college where she'd continue her winning sports career, Motau knew she wanted to study abroad in the United States for its strong water polo programs and rigorous academics.  Among all of the options she explored, Bucknell's Division I athletics program stood out for its commitment to training athletes' minds as well as their bodies.

"It was important to me and my family to choose a school where my sport wouldn't get in the way of my education or vice versa," Motau says. "The coach at Bucknell really emphasized the fact that I could play at the highest college level and still put my all into my studies."

It's a balance that will pave the way for the intended biology major to gain the textbook and hands-on experience she needs to pursue medical school after graduating — "all without sacrificing my time in the pool," she says.

The Confidence to Dive In

Even before stepping foot on campus, Motau had begun making connections with Bucknellians, both domestic and international. From meeting her future teammates on Zoom to bonding with fellow international students via email, the ability to start forming a community even before the first day has given Motau the assurance she needs to dive into the unknown.

"Everyone I've spoken to is so nice, and the family dynamic on Bucknell's team reminds me of the closeness I feel to the girls I play with now," Motau says. "I'm so excited for all the new experiences ahead."

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