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24 June 2019 | in Summer FISU World University Games, Swimming, NUSF News, FISU Athletes

Napoli a step to the Summer Olympics for South Africa's Kaylene Corbett

“All I want to do is try and get under the Olympic A qualifying time as many times as I can!”

 The beauty of a FISU Summer Universiade is that it brings together student-athletes to compete against like-minded, but at the same time, totally diverse athletes from all corners of the globe.


Some student athletes see the Universiade as a social event in the name of sport, others as a welcome distraction from their studies, while for a select few who participate under the FISU flag, it’s an event which acts as their sporting graduation to an even bigger stage.


South African swimmer Kaylene Corbett has seemingly skipped a number of undergraduate sporting classes in her career so far, her natural talent and hard work propelling her to qualification for the Commonwealth Games in Australia last year, where she made it all the way to the 200m breaststroke final at the tender age of 18 – her swimming highlight in life so far.


A swimmer from the age of eight since being encouraged to be water safe by her parents, Corbett, who hails from the remote agricultural town of Hartswater in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, was easily identifiable as a natural in the water as she rose through the domestic ranks before her first major international success at the 2015 Youth Commonwealth Games, where she bagged two silver and two bronze medals.


The rising starlet soon became a feature at the South African national championships before going on to represent her country at the 2017 Fina World Aquatics Championships before then making the national squad for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, reaching the final of the 200m breaststroke alongside Tatjana Schoenmaker – a 2017 FISU Universiade participant and silver medallist – who claimed gold in Australia.


Disaster struck over the second half of last year however as Corbett suffered a serious injury, yet the talented swimmer bounced back in impressive fashion to take the 200m South African breaststroke title in April this year, thereby qualifying for the Student Games while taking a mammoth two seconds off her previous personal best.


“Last year I tore ligaments in my ankle and it put me on the side lines for a while, but it was actually a blessing in disguise since it allowed me to improve my weak points and really work hard to get back into it,” she tells FISU.net.


The first year Education student at University of Pretoria admits “balancing everything takes discipline and time management skills” as she juggles both her studies and swimming, but is delighted at the prospect of representing South Africa at the Universiade for the first time.


“Representing South Africa is always a dream come true,” she says. “It's something you work for every single day and still making a team and getting on the blocks and representing your country has such an awesome trill to it – it's always a great experience!


“I had been planning on hopefully getting to go to Napoli! It's great to use your knowledge about yourself and swimming when getting to a new competition. Every competition, whether its national or international, teaches you something either about swimming or about yourself, and it's just about utilising the knowledge when you get to a new competition.”


While her goal in the Scandone Swimming Pool in Naples is to “swim as fast as I can and do my best”, the 20-year-old is excited at the social opportunities out of the water in Italy.


‘I’m definitely looking forward to the Italian cuisine and staying on a cruise ship as a village, and also getting to know so many people from other countries,” she says.


The first-year student harbours hopes of either becoming a special needs teacher or an Audiologist in future, but not before reaching her ultimate goal in the pool as she prepares for a busy season post Napoli 2019.


“After the Universiade I am going to the FINA World Championships and then for the rest of the season leading up to Olympic trials in 2020 all I want to do is try get under the Olympic A qualifying time as many times as I can!”


Up and up is the only way for young Corbett, who will no doubt be a medal contender to watch out for next month in Napoli.

Photos: supplied by Kaylene Corbett