Kirralee Hayes won her first international medal at the Commonwealth Games – but was unaware of it until she did a TV interview minutes later.
Years of hard work paid off on July 31 when she stepped up onto the podium after finishing third in the S13 50m freestyle for vision-impaired swimmers.
Hayes a founding member of Genesis Aquatic in Bray Park, was always in the mix for a medal and took bronze behind her Aussie team-mate and close friend Katje Dedkind, who set a world record 26.56 seconds.
Yet Hayes - clocked at 28.24 seconds - and Dedkind were unaware of their positions and times until after the race.
It took Channel 7’s poolside interviewer Cate Campbell, the Australian World and Olympic swimming legend, to break the great news.
Hayes, on her Commonwealth Games debut, said: “Honestly, I didn’t know where this thing would take me.
“I’m so happy I actually can’t believe it … to be on the podium with Katje …. everything”.
About Kirralee Hayes
Kirralee Hayes’ journey to the Commonwealth Games’ medal podium started back in 2013 at the pool in Genesis Christian College, Bray Park.
A founding member of Genesis Aquatics, Hayes admits she “grew up there, basically” – and it has proved time well spent.
Her drive for sporting success “really started kicking in” at the 2019 Australian Swimming Championships which led to the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo and this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Only illness stopped her lining up at the Australian trials for the World Para Swimming Championships.
Hayes progressed through states to the national development squad and in 2019, aged 15, surprised herself in making a final at the national championships.
“I did a lot better than I thought I’d do,” she said. “Making my first final, that’s when it really started kicking in and I thought I really want to do this.”
Now on the Australian selectors’ radar, Hayes joined coach Yuriy Vdovychenko at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra but continued working with Genesis coach Rick Pendleton when back in Queensland.
At the 2021 Australian trials Hayes touched second in the S13 50m freestyle to book her ticket to the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
She missed the S13 50m freestyle and 100m butterfly finals, but put that aside, moved the USC Spartans on the Sunshine Coast and bounced back with her first major international medal in Birmingham.
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