Junior Dives into Pre-Olympic Competition

Kymora Corbett ’20 suits up for a swim meet.  Photo Credit: Ashley Quarless

Kymora Corbett ’20 suits up for a swim meet. Photo Credit: Ashley Quarless

By ASHLEY ZHENG, ELIZABETH YU, AYLA SANGIRAY, and JASON MAI

For most people, the Olympics is only something they’d watch on TV, but not for Kymora Corbett ’20. She’s got her sights set, and she’s swimming her way there.

Corbett, a junior on Midwood’s girls swim team, recently qualified for tryouts for the Junior Olympic Futures Championship. It’s the fourth stage on her path to the Olympics, followed by Junior Nationals, National Championships, Olympic Trials, and finally, the Olympics.

Futures was created by USA Swimming, the governing body for swimming in the US, to narrow down the amount of competitors between the Sectional Championships and the Junior National Championships. 

Corbett’s swimming career started at a very young age. “When I was six years old I used to take ballet classes,” she said, “and my mom told me that I should take swimming lessons for safety purposes because as a kid she couldn’t swim.”

Corbett found she was a natural-born swimmer after a word with her podiatrist.

“My foot doctor, Dr. Carlton—he’s retired now—said that my feet and ankles were so flexible they would fit perfectly for swimming,” she said. “The crazy part was, he didn’t even know I was a swimmer until my mom told him.”

Corbett’s talent in swimming was recognized by many of her coaches, and shortly after, she made her decision.

“I was inspired to start swimming by the 2008 and 2012 olympic races,” she said. “I felt the adrenaline telling me that I wanted to be in a tight race. I realized I wanted to be on TV, too, as an olympic swimmer.”

“At the age of 10, I told my parents I wanted to become a competitive swimmer because I enjoyed the classes so much,” said Corbett. “I learned to swim mostly at Imagine Swimming at St. Francis College.”

Corbett started competing in the sixth grade, when she was 11. 

“I actually cried at my first competition,” she said, “because I was afraid I was going to lose. I ended up winning two medals that day.”

She looks up to swimmers Lia Neal and Simone Manuel “because they always walk around with a smile after their races, whether they performed badly or great,” Corbett said.

Corbett doesn’t just swim to compete. She also swims to blow off steam, as exercise, and to help her calm down after a bad day.

“Swimming helps me swim off a lot: anger, a couple sandwichs I ate, and the bad days iIhave,” Corbett said. “Swimming helps me relax and allows me to think properly.” 

As a freshman, Corbett tried out for Midwood’s girls swim team.

Julie Huang ’19 and Maya McCormock ’19 are the team’s co-captains.

“Maya used to swim with her on an outside team, so we knew she was a strong swimmer,” said Huang. “When I first saw her swim, I was super impressed, especially since she was a freshman. We knew she was a great addition to the team.”

Corbett doesn’t have a personal trainer, but she’s good at pushing herself, Huang says.

“We usually put Kymora in relays because we know she can push herself, especially if the relay is behind,” said Huang. “She’ll do her best to try to catch up. Kymora’s strong in a lot of events, especially freestyle.”

Swimming competitions involve a variety of different techniques, and Corbett is working on becoming a well-rounded swimmer.

According to Huang, “Kymora swam the 200m individual medley a handful of times as well as the 100m butterfly. Since freshman year, she’s improved a lot in her other strokes, and it shows.”

Tianna Bassie ’19 said, “She has her mind set to what she wants.” 

There are things that Corbett still struggles with, though. One example is diving.

“I was horrible at diving,” she said. “I was so bad that when I finally did a perfect dive, all the parents on the bench cheered for me.”

With the rapid approach of the Junior Olympic Futures Championships, Corbett is practicing seven times a week for two hours a day. She is also paying attention to her diet.

“I ask my coaches a lot of questions about nutrition and which workouts I should do at home,” she said. “I even ask them to record me, so I can coach myself and compare myself to professional swimmers.”

“I hate diets, but my diet is not too strict,” Corbett said. “I normally consume what any ordinary athlete eats, like vegetables, protein, baked chicken. But I sneak in two or three cheat days.” 

The Futures meet will be held on August 1-4 in four regional sites in Oregon, Iowa, Ohio, and North Carolina.

“I’m pretty confident at the moment,” Corbett said, “because my times are still dropping and they’re faster than previous meets.”

SportsCasey Levinson