It’s her 17th birthday today and what better present could Kayla Van Der Merwe wish for than a high-flying debut at the LEN European Short Course Championships in Glasgow next month.
Van Der Merwe represents the youngest member of the British team participating in the competition, bringing youthful exuberance to the Scottish water to accompany some of the more experienced members of the home contingent.
But that’s not to say she hasn’t already achieved considerable success on the international stage, scooping a pair of medals at this summer’s FINA World Junior Swimming Championships in Budapest.
The precocious young talent claimed silver in the 50m Breaststroke before going on to win bronze in the 100m event just two days later, making a name for herself at the greatest junior stage of all and fuelling momentum going into December’s Short Course Championship.
And that wasn’t the only success Van Der Merwe had this summer, also winning gold in the 100m Breaststroke at the European Junior Championships in Kazan in July.
Indeed, that was just one of the medals the just-turned 17-year-old travelled home from Russia with, claiming bronze in the 200m Breaststroke and clinching a further third-place in the 4x100m relay to mark herself out as one of the competition’s unequivocal rising stars.
And this summer was also one filled with individual landmarks for Van Der Merwe, setting a new personal best on the way to securing her World Championship 100m Breaststroke bronze by touching the wall in a speedy 1 minute 7.06 seconds.
Just 0.13 seconds separated the top three in Budapest – Russia’s Evgeniia Chikunova took the ultimate crown and USA’s Kaitlyn Dobler claimed silver – with Van Der Merwe’s time emerging as the sixth fastest ever in British breaststroke history.
And she’s now putting in the final preparations for making her senior debut in Glasgow, also being selected to be part of a 48-strong British Swimming World Class Programme squad for the 2019-20 season that comprises all those performers who possess medal potential at Tokyo 2020.
So, with the LEN European Short Course Championships now just weeks away, Van Der Merwe is without doubt one to watch out for as she embarks on her senior swimming odyssey.
Follow Kayla on social
Twitter – @kayla_vdmerwe
Instagram – @kaylavdm.xo
Short Course records
100m Breaststroke – 1:07.06
She may have only just turned 17 but Van Der Merwe’s time of 1 minute 7.06 seconds was the sixth fastest time in senior British breaststroke history.