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18 October 2020 | in Summer FISU World University Games

Napoli 2019 double gold medalist’s attitude remains steadfast, eyes Olympics next year

Tayla Lovemore 4

Tayla Lovemore won two gold medals for South Africa at last year’s Napoli 2019 Summer Universiade. Now she relishes the opportunity to be back in the pool again as her focus turns on the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

 

Tayla Lovemore 5 narrowThe 25-year-old has competed internationally in various events such as the World Championships in Canada (2016)/ South Korea (2019), World Cup series in Singapore, Netherlands and Hungary (2018) and last year competed at her first-ever FISU World University Games in Italy. However, this year Lovemore has not been able to compete or train due to the pandemic. This posed a new challenge for her, however, the swimmer has taken everything in her stride and looked at the situation with a new perspective.

 

“I will be honest; it has been one of the most mentally challenging experiences of my life thus far. With all the restrictions on pool time, available facilities as well as my own personal financial struggles, it has been really difficult to feel confident in the training that I have done over the past few months. But, there are things that happen in life that you just have absolutely no control over and I think a true test of character is how you react to these things. How do you make the most of it and what can you change for the better?” said the perseverant double gold medalist.

 

Lovemore who has had a keen interest and love for water since she was young, reflects on her childhood saying, “I grew up surfing and always was around the ocean as a kid so swimming for me came naturally. I don’t really remember what made me so drawn to the sport but I was probably about 12/13-years-old when I practically begged my dad to put me into club swimming.”

 

She further gives another experience that she will never forget: “I must have been about 5/6 years old, I was at school and we were having our Interhouse Gala swim meet that day. Because my grade was so little, the teachers just wanted us to do one length of the pool in whatever stroke we felt most comfortable doing…or at least something we could actually finish the whole length of the pool in!

Tayla Lovemore 2

Well, when they blew the whistle, we all jumped in and started swimming. I just remember touching the wall on the other side, looking up at my teacher and my dad and they asked me, “when did you learn to do that?”. Somehow, without even really knowing what I was doing, I managed to swim the entire length of the pool BUTTERFLY! That was one of my very first memories swimming,” she said reminiscing.

 

With preparations for the Olympics underway, the swimmer remains positive about the journey ahead stating, “The lack of racing has been a tough adjustment to the schedule this year but it does not worry me. It gives me ample time to get the right amount of training and preparation in.”

 

Tayla Lovemore 3 narrowLovemore further speaks of her experience going into the games next year after competing and summiting the podium in Napoli: “I still try and find the words to express how I feel about those wonderful days, I guess I am still in shock! (on winning her two gold medals). It was a pretty humbling experience for me. The women that I was racing against were and are currently still some of the best in the world and just to say that I was on that podium was unimaginable. I guess you can say that I felt, humbled. Humbled and honoured,” she revealed.

 

Last year, Lovemore was the first athlete to bag a gold for South Africa. She revisits what it was like on race day and how she made it to a podium finish: “I always thought that 50m butterfly was my strongest event. I am a very big and powerful swimmer with a pretty efficient and explosive start, so 50s sprint came very naturally to me. I guess, my biggest goal wasn’t necessarily to make the podium but to have the fastest reaction time in the world as well as to have the fastest start in the world. But being on the podium was pretty awesome too!”

 

The African and South African record holder who is currently studying Aquatic Environmental Science at Florida State University owes it all to her father who inspires her to reach for all her goals: “My dad, he has sacrificed so much for me to get me where I am today, with never asking for anything in return. He has loved me and supported me through all the ups and all the downs. Through all my injuries and mishaps, he never lost faith in my abilities to perform nor did he ever put pressure on me to perform. He just supported me and loved me and that is all the inspiration I ever needed to succeed,” she said with gratitude.

 

As competitions return and Lovemore dons the green and gold again, when asked what representing South Africa means to her she says: “It means being a role model to the young. It means when we come together, fight for each other and love each other, anything is possible. It means everything.”