Juggling her promising sporting career and studies has been a tough task but Swarts is adamant to strike a balance between the two as she understands that both are of equal importance. Photo: Supplied
The 17-year-old has not looked back since then and has gone on to represent South Africa twice in the national U16 squad and has been coached and played in the Netherlands. Photo: Supplied
She chose to play netball in pre-primary but, when she was hit in the face in her first training session, Swarts instantly changed her mind and turned to play hockey instead. Photo: Supplied
The younger sister of Olympian, Wayde van Niekerk, developed a love for sports from a fairly young age and admits that she never enjoyed sitting in her pram because she loved running and jumping around with her brothers. Photo: Supplied

Kayla Swarts Running Her Own Race

by | Jun 7, 2020

Apartheid denied Odessa Swarts the opportunity to achieve her personal sports dream, but freedom is allowing her young daughter, up and coming hockey and track star, Kayla, to dream big,

The younger sister of Olympian, Wayde van Niekerk, developed a love for sports from a fairly young age and admits that she never enjoyed sitting in her pram because she loved running and jumping around with her brothers.

She chose to play netball in pre-primary but, when she was hit in the face in her first training session, Swarts instantly changed her mind and turned to play hockey instead.

The 17-year-old has not looked back since then and has gone on to represent South Africa twice in the national U16 squad and has been coached and played in the Netherlands.

Juggling her promising sporting career and studies has been a tough task but Swarts is determined to strike a balance between the two as she understands that both are of equal importance.

Her greatest sporting ambition is to represent the country at the Olympic Games with one of her siblings.

She is also focused on her goals beyond her sporting career as she has dreams of going into sports engineering specialising in design equipment to enhance athletes’ performance.

Speaking to Celine Abrahams, Swarts shares that her brother gave her regarding her sporting career and reveals her women sporting heroes.

Hi Kayla, welcome to gsport! Thank you for taking time out for us. How’s life been for you under lockdown? 

Lockdown has been challenging for me as it is a completely new experience not going on with my normal life and trying to keep myself busy indoors, but it has been great spending so much quality time with my family.

What has been the hardest part for you having to be indoors and not going on with your normal life? 

The hardest part about being indoors is probably the fact that I’m an outdoor person, also not being able to be on the astro turf with my teammates and missing out on big tournaments that we prepared for and were really looking forward to.

What would a normal day in the life of Kayla look like? 

After school I’d go straight to hockey fitness with the team, thereafter we have a practice session and from hockey I go to athletics training and arrive home at around 7pm.

When did you start developing a love for sports? 

“I never enjoyed sitting in my pram as I always wanted to run and jump around my brothers.” – Promising South African hockey player, Kayla Swarts.

Considering I have a very sports orientated family my love for sports started at a fairly young age, I never enjoyed sitting in my pram as I always wanted to run and jump around my brothers.

What encouraged you to choose hockey as your sport of choice? 

Funny story actually, in pre-primary we had the choice between hockey or netball and I initially chose netball until I got thrown in the face on my first day of practice and that sealed my selection to hockey.

Are there any other sports that you are involved in or interested in pursuing? 

Yes, athletics I especially enjoy the short sprints and long jump.

What is it like balancing your education and still trying to develop a sporting career? 

It is not easy as I arrive home tired with lots of homework waiting for me and most times I would rather want to be outside on the field than indoors doing homework but I do try my best to maintain the balance as I know both are of equal importance.

How has your family supported your journey so far? 

My family has always been there for me, whether it was to ask for advice, for emotional support or physically being at my matches or races to support me. My parents have gone out of their way to create opportunities to grow and find my feet as a young athlete.

Your brother, Wayde, is an Olympic track and field athlete, what has been his advice to you regarding your career? 

“He also told me that we come from the same bloodline, what was possible for him to achieve makes it possible for me, I just have to follow my goals.” – Swarts shares the advice that her brother, Wayde van Niekerk, continues to tell her to reach for her sporting goals.

My brother always tells me to never give up on my dreams nor compare my progress or achievements to anyone else because the only person I need to beat is myself. He also told me that we come from the same bloodline, what was possible for him to achieve makes it possible for me, I just have to follow my goals.

Who are your female sporting heroes? 

Quanita Bobbs, Caster Semenya and my mother (Odessa Swarts).

So far, what would you say have been your biggest highlights? 

It was an honour for me to be selected in the U16 SA squad for two consecutive years, another highlight in my journey so far was being able to be coached and play in the Netherlands.

How do you keep yourself motivated, especially on your bad days? 

I believe in outworking my potential so having a bad day just makes me want to work twice as hard. It is also important to refocus on my goals and remember what I am working towards when I am feeling down.

What is your greatest sporting ambition? 

To represent the country at the Olympic Games with one of my siblings!

Do you have any other career plans that you would one day want to venture into? 

I would love to go into sports engineering one day and design equipment to enhance athletes’ performance.

What is the best advice that you could give to other young athletes who are finding it difficult to make their dreams a reality?

Not to feel pressured if they are not performing as well as their teammates or competitors because we all develop at different stages, just keep focused on your goals and most importantly have fun while doing it.

As June is Youth Month, who are your favourite South African youth athletes and why?

Alida van der Merwe, she is one of my classmates who has already become an Olympian at such a young age, showing me that you’re never too young to achieve your goals.

 

 

Photo 1 Caption: Former promising South African sprinter, Odessa Swarts’ daughter, Kayla, certainly caught the athleticism bug, as she is steadily making her name in hockey and on the track. Photo: Supplied

Photo 2 Caption: The younger sister of Olympian, Wayde van Niekerk, developed a love for sports from a fairly young age and admits that she never enjoyed sitting in her pram because she loved running and jumping around with her brothers. Photo: Supplied

Photo 3 Caption: She chose to play netball in pre-primary but, when she was hit in the face in her first training session, Swarts instantly changed her mind and turned to play hockey instead. Photo: Supplied

Photo 4 Caption: The 17-year-old has not looked back since then and has gone on to represent South Africa twice in the national U16 squad and has been coached and played in the Netherlands. Photo: Supplied

Photo 5 Caption: Juggling her promising sporting career and studies has been a tough task but Swarts is adamant to strike a balance between the two as she understands that both are of equal importance. Photo: Supplied

 

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