Imagine having one dream. One dream that is on your mind every day and has been on your mind every day since you were six years old.
For Zyleika Pratt-Smith, formerly of Tauranga, that dream is the Olympics.
At age 18, she’s heading in the right direction after qualifying for four events for the Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, aka the Junior Pan PAC’s.
The long-course swimming event features high-level 18-and-under swimmers from around the Pacific and with selections underway, Zyleika could be heading to Hawaii in August. The event is August 24-27.
The swimmer didn’t just wake up with a 200 metre individual medley time of 2.17.59, but started her swimming journey when she was in primary school.
“I started swimming lessons when I was really young, coached by my nana Fiona – if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be where I am right now.
“I first did synchronised swimming when I was seven years old and would do little competitions at school, which I would do really well in.
“I wasn’t registered with a club until I was 11 where I started swimming with Papamoa Swimming Club.”
Zyleika then moved to Mount Maunganui Swim Club from 13-17 years old before making the move only three months ago to further her career in Auckland.
Describing herself as a “natural in the water”, Zyleika competes in the individual medley, backstroke and breaststroke strokes.
“I’m swimming full-time now and training nine times a week while also doing online school because I can’t go to school during training times and then I’m also working part-time as well.”
When asked about what her peers are doing, Zyleika says it’s hard but she believes she’s on the right track.
“I’m not doing what a lot of other 18-year-olds are doing but I have heaps of time to do that in my life.
“Sometimes I feel like I want to be normal, but I also want to be different.
“I just want to chase my dreams.”
Zyleika says that without her support system, she wouldn’t be where she is today.
“I come from a family that’s not that wealthy and sometimes it can get hard but I definitely have a good support system.
“My mum is my main supporter, she wouldn’t make me going to training and so I would do it myself because I was that committed. She didn’t push me and so I pushed myself.
“Also my nana is the main reason I’m here. She’s guided me through all my years of swimming.”
When asked about her medal count for 2022, Zyleika says as she has gotten older, medals have become less important. “I have received a fair amount throughout the years but I’ve also realised it’s not about how many medals you win or have.
“I think it’s about your own personal growth and how you have grown as an athlete.
“When I was younger, of course, I would be super competitive and try to win the most medals, but now that I have matured it’s not about that anymore.”
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