Kelly Gunnell has only studied at the University of Pretoria for a year, but it is a year she will never forget.
The former swimmer graduated last week with honours in sport science. Her biggest regret is that she did not get to study for a more extended period at Tuks.
“The moment I started training and studying at Tuks it was like joining a family as I was made welcome from the word go. Something else that will always stand out for me at Tuks is its facilities. It so well kept and it can be compared to the best in the world.”
Gunnell is also full of praise for Rocco Meiring who was her swimming coach.
“I got the utmost of respect for Rocco. He looks like this big intimidating man, but he is all heart, and he is so passionate about his swimmers. He does not coach for the money or fame. Everything he does, he does for the love of swimming.
“That is why I could not help but get quite emotional when I saw Tatjana Schoenmaker won the two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games. She and Rocco so deserved the success.”
Gunnell was herself a talented breaststroke swimmer. A definite highlight was winning a gold medal in the 200m-breaststroke, silver in the 100m-breaststroke and bronze in the 50m-breaststroke at the Youth Commonwealth Games. Unfortunately, her swimming career got cut short in 2016 when she had to undergo a double knee-operation from which she never fully recovered.
She had to face a new challenge this year when she got selected to be one of the contestants in the Tropika Island of Treasure television reality program competition. She was teamed up with Melinda Bam a former Miss South Africa. They got eliminated in the six round.
“An interesting experience,” is how Gunnell describes it, but it is not something she wants to do again.
“Through swimming, I got used to handling high-pressure situations but competing in a television reality program is something completely different. It was quite stressful and made me realise that I am not cut out to be in the entertainment industry.”
According to Gunnell, she decided to do her honours in sport science because her dream has always been to make a difference in people’s life.
“I hope to have a wellness centre in the foreseeable future where I can help especially women to live a healthy lifestyle.”
The other Tuks swimmers to have graduated are Ruan Ras (undergraduate in architecture), JP van der Merwe (undergraduate in psychology), Michaela Diaz (honours in sport science), Michaela Gerling (honours in sport science).