Haven’t heard of Yolane Kukla? Don’t worry, you will. Today, the 14-year old, who is known as “yo-yo” knocked off a World Champion to become the youngest swimmer to make the Australian National Team in over a decade.
Kukla is already drawing comparisons to some of Australia’s all-time greats. She has an almost identical body type (short, stocky, and muscular) as recently retired legend Libby Trickett. Kukla swims the same events as Trickett did, the 50 and 100 freestyle and butterfly events, but her swim on the second day of the Commonwealth Games Trials in the 50 fly was already a tenth of a second faster than Trickett ever swam the event, even in polyurethane.
Curious as to who the last swimmer younger than Kukla was to make the squad? Well, that would be a young man by the name of Ian who qualified for the Pan-Pacific Games when he was merely a week younger than Kukla is. I think that some of you may have heard of Mr. Thorpe.
The last female swimmer to qualify for the Dolphins younger than Kukla’s 14 years, 175 days was Jodie Clatworthy, all the way back in 1986. Clatworthy was only 13 at the time.
Kukla knocked off a star-studed field to win the event in an amazing time of 25.92. Defending World Champion Marieke Guehrer finished second in 26.28, and Emily Seebhom, the last swimmer to make the team as a 14-year old in 2007 and an Olympic gold medalist, finished third in 26.47.
Astonishingly, Kukla was a late-comer to the sport of swimming. She competed in gymnastics for 5 years at a very high level, until 3 years ago, when she blew her knee out. Only for the past 3 years has she been seriously training swimming.
Her coach, Michael Palfery, credits her gymnastics background with much of her success. She is an incredibly strong swimmer, and is very powerful. Palfery says that “Her power to weight ratio is through the roof.”
This was most easily observed in the start of the 50m butterfly. Kukla beat the entire field off the blocks with an explosive reaction time of .67 seconds. Kukla has a big advantaged over most swimmers her age because of her dryland workouts. Her background with gymnasitcs allows her to spend a lot of time in the gym without negatively affecting her stroke or development.
“We’re always trying to find new exercises to challenge her because she adapts so quickly,” Palfery told the Herald Sun. “She probably is 12 months in front simply because of her gymnastics background.”
Kukla also qualified third for tomorrow’s (tonight in Australia) finals in the 100 meter freestyle..
So folks, learn the name Yolane Kukla. You’re probably going to be hearing about Yo-Yo a lot over the next decade.