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22 July 2021 | in NUSF News, FISU Athletes

Former South African varsity footballer fulfills Olympic dream

As the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games kick off, athletes are gearing up for the opportunity of a lifetime to compete on the world stage. To compete, athletes must be in top shape to perform at their best, which is why recent graduate and team physiotherapist, Kayla Richards, plays a key role with the South African delegation at the Games.


As a 28-year-old woman and former varsity football player who never dared dream that she might one day have a chance of going to the Olympics, the South African Olympic team will lean heavily on Kayla as she is the team’s physiotherapist ensuring they are in the best possible shape to take on athletes from around the world at the event.


Many physiotherapists like Kayla at one point or another have thought about what it would be like to be a physiotherapist at the Games. The young and upcoming physiotherapist is ecstatic about her Olympic debut with her country’s delegation.


“My dream of going to the Olympic Games has been within me ever since I was lucky enough to be introduced to sports physiotherapy through University of the Western Cape (UWC),” says Kayla.


“It took a while for it to sink in and to realise that this is actually happening. Honestly, I didn't think it would take place when it got postponed after Covid-19. It's an honor and privilege to get to showcase your craft with cream of the crop sportsmen and women. I can only grow and progress from this point onwards as I’m not only representing my country but my family, my community, and many girls who are yet to achieve this,” she adds.


Born and raised in Lotus River, Cape Town, Kayla made the move to Johannesburg straight after graduating from UWC with a BSc Physiotherapy in 2015 and turned her passion into a reality, opening her very own mobile physiotherapy practice.


Kayla also played as center-back on the University of the Western Cape (UWC) women’s football team from 2012 until 2015. She was part of the cohort that won the Coca-Cola Cup (Gold) in 2013, Varsity Football 2015 (Silver), and USSA Club Champs 2014 (Bronze).


“My passion for sports sparked my interest in being a physio. During my teen years at the national football academy, I always said I want to be that person running onto the field. Once I matriculated my journey started.”, Kayla says.


Four years later after graduating from UWC, she opened her own mobile physiotherapy practice called ‘Physio on the MOVE’, currently based in Johannesburg – with a dream to expand to other provinces.


Her journey to the pinnacle of her profession with the South African Olympic team has not been easy, but she is now able to declare: "I started dreaming bigger and bolder, and now I’m seeing the fruits of those dreams".


Richards started at the lowest level in local-sport and went on to aid her services to University Sport South Africa (USSA) and many other universities.


"I have a task that I need to do, that I set out and I promised to the Lotus River people, to myself, [and] to my family... I would do whatever I can," she concludes.


With her Olympic dream now a reality, she admits the call was an emotional one as she sets out on the journey of a lifetime supporting South Africa’s delegation in the best way she knows how. Best of luck Kayla!


Written by Skhu Nkomphela (member of the FISU Media and Communication Committee)