As a present for her eighth birthday, Kayla Hardy was given a Ginninderra Swim Club membership.
It’s probably the best present she ever received given the impact the sport has had on her life in and out of the pool.
By its very nature, competitive swimming has provided Kayla with plenty of life skills, including the discipline of early morning starts, training and more training, with plenty of hurdles in the way.
The now 20-year-old Kayla is preparing for another challenge: the upcoming Australian swimming trials in Melbourne, where swimmers are selected for the World Swimming Championships in Japan in July this year.
Kayla already has a taste for making the Australian team. She was selected as a member for the World Short Course titles held in Melbourne on 1 December 2022.
“Making the team last year was an incredible feeling,” says Kayla.
“I competed in three events, including the 400 individual medley where I just missed out on making the final.”
Kayla hopes to replicate that incredible feeling in the trials for the Worlds in Japan, with the 400 IM again seen as her best chance of making it through.
“It won’t be easy. I will need to get a personal best to qualify for the 400 IM.”
To achieve that goal, under the guidance of her coach at the Cruiz Club Laura Brindley and ACT Performance Hub head coach Shannon Rollason, Kayla has been in a hard training block for close to four months.
To say it has been a juggle is an understatement. “I’ve been in the pool for 10 sessions a week, two gym sessions, waitressing three to four times a week and studying part-time at UC for a degree in Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation.”
If nothing else, it demonstrates the multi-skilling attributes of the modern-day swimmer.
Thankfully for Kayla, there has been an element of relief to her gruelling schedule in the form of an Eldon and Anne Foote Elite Athlete Scholarship awarded to 11 student-athletes at the University of Canberra this year.
Director of Sport at UC Carrie Graf said the annual scholarships through the Trust allow athletes to pursue study while continuing to focus on their respective high-performance sport.
The 2023 Eldon and Anne Foote Elite Athlete Scholarship recipients are Jasmine Greenwood, Para Swimming; Tess Cattle, AFLW; Kayla Hardy, Swimming; Matthew Harrow, Softball; Mia Chawner, Snowboarding; Davis Atkin, Hockey; Mitchell Baker, Race Walking; Jesse Moore, Gymnastics; Ari Gesini, Para Athletics; Michael Dimuantes, Ultra-trail marathon; and Gabrielle Sutcliffe, Cricket.
The scholarship dovetails perfectly into UC’s vision of establishing itself as Australia’s leading sport university.
For Kayla, the $10,000 scholarship will result in her spending less time on her feet waitressing.
“The scholarship means a lot. It’s a huge financial relief,” says Kayla.
“I’ve been working as a waitress at Frankie’s at Forde, which is great, but it can be tiring with 12,000 steps a shift on top of training. I’ve been able to reduce my shifts.”
At this level of sport, any assistance has the potential to make a difference.
Kayla’s ambitions run well beyond the upcoming World Championship trials. Her long-term goal has always been the Olympics.