Training can bring a girl to tears – SA Olympic medal hope Corbett

South African swimmer Kaylene Corbett will compete in the women's 200m breaststroke event at the Paris Olympics at the end of July. Picture: Supplied

South African swimmer Kaylene Corbett will compete in the women's 200m breaststroke event at the Paris Olympics at the end of July. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 25, 2024



Breaststroke specialist Kaylene Corbett has competed at the Olympics before but will treat her 2024 Paris campaign as a novel experience.

Corbett was named in the initial list of 39 athletes for the Olympic Games in Paris and is one of 15 athletes who previously competed at the world’s premier quadrennial international multi-sport event.

At the Tokyo Olympics, Corbett reached the final of the 200m breaststroke and finished fifth behind fellow South African Tatjana Smith (nee Schoenmaker), the eventual winner in record-breaking time. It was the first time since Sydney 2000 that two South African women reached the finals of the same event.

In April this year, Corbett secured her Olympics ticket with a qualifying time at the South African Swimming Championships at Newton Park swimming pool in Port Elizabeth.

Corbett and Smith will be in action in Paris in the 200m breaststroke heats on July 31.

“I am excited since I see this as my first Olympic Games,” said Corbett. “In Tokyo, we didn’t have any spectators because of Covid. It was an incredible experience but this time, it will be my first time experiencing an Olympics the way it usually is and I cannot wait!

“My main goal for the Olympics is to enjoy every little bit that I can. I am hoping to use past experiences to allow me to be more relaxed at the Olympics, and just enjoy and embrace everything. We (the swimmers) will be in the village around 20th July.”

Corbett’s training is intensive with the Olympics about seven weeks away.

“I do around eight swim sessions a week which are between an hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours during a week. I can spend between three to four hours in a pool a day.

“On other days I go to the gym in the morning and swim in the evening so that would be around 60-90 minutes in the gym,” said Corbett.

“We (our training group) swim between 40-50kms a week in the pool.

“I struggle the most in training when we’re close to competition because that’s when we start simulating the race. We try to see if we can hit certain targets in the race. It’s the hardest of all sessions, and it can bring a girl to tears.

“I’m excited and by now, the hard work has been done. Now it’s just a case of putting all the small pieces together over the next few weeks.”

Corbett trains in a group coached by Rocco Meiring at the University of Pretoria (Tuks). Five of his swimmers have already qualified for Paris.

Recently, Meiring’s group was given R500 000 sponsorship by pool chemicals brand HTH to help the swimmers prepare for the games.

“It is incredible to see the private sector taking an interest in athletes. If we want to make our sport a job and thus completely rely on our chosen sport to be able to pay the bills, then that’s a massive challenge,” said Corbett.

“Most athletes in South Africa rely on their parents or find jobs to carry on with sport. This partnership with HTH meant that I could swim my way into my second Olympic Games team.

“At the same time, I can complete my studies and obtain a degree at the University of Pretoria. Support like this goes above and beyond allowing me to achieve only on the swimming front. It has helped ensure I will be employable post my swim career.”

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