Kirralee's perfect timing for Tokyo Games

Published 8:45am 7 July 2021

Kirralee's perfect timing for Tokyo Games
Words by Nick Crockford

Kirralee Hayes has her boarding pass for the flight to Tokyo, but says reality may not sink in until she actually steps on the plane.

The 17-year-old from Genesis Aquatics in Bray Park is now preparing for her first Paralympic Games (August 24-September 5).

Hayes, a founding member of the club at Genesis Christian College, has qualified for the S13 (vision impaired) 50m Freestyle and 100m Butterfly in Japan.

Kirralee's perfect timing for Tokyo Games
Kirralee Hayes, centre, with her boaarding pass for Tokyo, presented when the Paralympic team was announced.

Nerve wracking

At the trials, she needed to swim 28.00 seconds to have a chance of making the Tokyo team - and clocked exactly 28 seconds!

“I was very happy, then it was just a question of waiting to see if I got in,” Hayes said, “it was still nerve wracking.

“I was just about to leave for the finals (at the trials) when I was told ‘make sure are here at this time with these things’.

'This is real'

“I thought wow! It (the official announcement) was surreal. I wasn’t going to believe it until I was called out. I thought things can happen. They might have got it wrong.

“Then I started believing it and thinking this is real. But, honestly, I don’t think it will really sink in until I get on that plane to Tokyo.”

Hayes is based at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra, but regularly returns to train at Genesis Aquatics with her coach Rick Pendleton.

Kirralee's perfect timing for Tokyo Games
Kirralee Hayes' coach Rick Pendleton at Genesis Aquatic.

Racing ability

“Once Kirralee is in the moment she is very capable,” said Pendleton, “her racing ability is pretty strong. She doesn’t get phased by much.

“When it comes to the final at a big meet she generally steps up and knows what she has to do.”

Pendleton said Hayes had “been on the radar” of Swimming Australia for two years after making the finals at the 2019 National Championships as a 15-year-old.

“At that point Swimming Australia were asking more about her,” said Pendleton, “it has been a long journey to this point and we’re very proud of her.”

Work load

Hayes has a busy few weeks coming up. She went back to the AIS in Canberra, then returns to Queensland and enters a pre-Paralympic camp in Cairns before flying to Tokyo.

She has also had to concentrate on important school work.

“In class I’m fine, I can focus of the work,” said Hayes, “In free time my mind can wander. “I have thought a little about the races (in Tokyo), but really I just want to take it one step at a time.

“I am still learning about my opponents and I know I’ve got to work hard.”

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