Main Image: Kirralee Hayes getting ready for the Tokyo Paralympics (supplied). Listen: Swimming Coach Rick Pendleton catches up with Steff Willis about preparing Kirralee Hayes for Tokyo and her Paralympic debut.
Kirralee Hayes has been swimming since the age of 11 and after strong performances at the Australian Multi-Class Swimming Champs and the Australian Swimming Trials in June, she is all set for her Paralympic debut in Tokyo today.
Rick is no stranger to the Paralympic journey being a 4 time Paralympian and 3 time gold medal recipient but says that becoming a coach has helped him to appreciate the experience and all that it means.
“When I first got in as a young 19-year-old I probably took it a bit for granted but especially over the last 5 years since becoming a coach myself, I’ve really stood back and really appreciated just the amount of work and time that goes into getting to that level” says Rick Pendleton.
Kirralee struggles with vision impairment but hasn’t let that stop her from pursuing her dreams.
“Because Kirralee has to strain to see things, to read and write and that sort of thing, often if she has a very big day at school she’ll come to training and her brain will just be fried, similar to how you might feel if you’ve been staring at a computer screen for too long but that gets exacerbated to no end.
“She could come in with really strained eyes, massive headaches and things like that so she has to learn how to manage load to ensure that she can get her training in and done properly.”
As Kirralee prepares to swim for Australia, her coach, Rick Pendleton couldn’t be prouder and will be cheering her on from home.
“In all walks of life, she’s trying to execute to a high level and it does show a lot of grit by somebody at that level to manage those things.”
When it comes to overcoming adversity and pursuing your dreams, Rick encourages us to see it as a choice rather than a sacrifice.
“If it’s a big enough dream and you want it enough, there’s nothing that you shouldn’t be willing to give up.”
Genesis Christian College are celebrating Kiralee and supporting her races with a green and gold themed dress up day today. To support Kiralee Hayes as she swims for Australia, check out her race times below:
Wed 25 Aug | Women’s 100m Fly S13 – heat – 12pm AEST
The final will be the same day, at 8pm AEST
Sun 29 Aug | Women’s 50m Free S13 – heat – 11am AEST
The final will be the same day, at 7pm AEST