Paula van Zyl is no ordinary teenager. Where most 16-year-old girls enjoy a carefree life, Paula spends most days training.
Pushing herself to the limit in the pursuit of greatness. Embracing her passion for swimming and enhancing her natural talent. Yet her hours of sacrifice have not gone unnoticed, as she now reaps the rewards.
On October 12, Paula was announced as the KZN Sportswoman of Year with a disability at the KZN Sports Awards Ceremony. An accolade which puts her in the ranks between some of the best athletes in KwaZulu-Natal.
KZN Sports Awards is an event where sportspersons are honoured as individuals or team athletes, coaches, administrators and volunteers. Seeing their outstanding contribution to sports in both KZN and the country recognised.
“I’m over the moon. When I first heard my name, I thought I heard wrong,” she enthuses.
But as it sank in, Paula found herself in awe. She had won an award, standing as a provincially acclaimed swimmer. A force to be reckoned with in the sporting world.
“It is an honour for me. This award has inspired me to go further in swimming, hopefully inspiring people.”
With the title of KZN Sports Woman of the Year with a Disability, the 16-year-old swimmer is now setting her sights on the future.
“I am now going to do my best to qualify for the SA Nationals. I am also planning to qualify for the Paralympics 2024 if I don’t qualify for 2020,” she explains.
As an award-winning swimmer, what does Paula enjoy about swimming and how has it changed her life?
“I enjoy how after a long day, it clears my mind,” she says.
Furthermore, Paula explains swimming has changed her life in the way it has inspired her to continuously push herself.
“Swimming pushes me to try harder and carry on with everything I face,” she explains.
Following her win, Paula says she would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to her parents, Franz and Elke van Zyl, her coach, Amy Fraser, St Dominics Newcastle, as well as Prime Health Elite Athlete Development Programme.
“I also want to thank my brother, Erich, who is my biggest supporter,” she adds.
Paula’s coach, Amy says she is elated about Paula’s win and being announced as the KZN Sports Woman of the Year with a Disability.
“I have been coaching Paula for the past six years and her confidence and strength has grown tremendously over the years. I am ecstatic and extremely proud of her.”
Her mother, Elke, is also thrilled about Paula’s accomplishment. “We are proud of her and hope she continues with the way she is.”
Well done to Paula van Zyl, you are a true sporting personality, putting Newcastillian on the sporting map as you make waves in the sporting world.