Forced to go through a lengthy period of rehabilitation may just have provided the impetus Kelly Kingwill needs as she continues to resurrect her athletics career at the World Student Games this month.
After showing her promise as a junior and earning national colours, the 26-year-old Bestmed Madibaz long and triple jumper was sidelined by a debilitating succession of injuries from 2014 to 2016.
But now, with those dark days consigned to the scrapheap, Kingwill wants to grab every opportunity, starting with her first taste of overseas competition in Chinese Taipei from August 19.
While she looks forward to the challenge in Taipei, she can also reflect on the way her career has unfolded and the lessons she learnt as she spent three years on the side-lines.
“I had a navicular stress fracture in my foot, a torn hamstring tendon and a torn meniscus (knee),” said Kingwill, who is studying towards her masters in media studies.
“It was extremely disheartening and a confusing period for me. It was really tough, mentally, to be injured consecutively the way I was.”
However, she acknowledges that the time missed from the athletics arena renewed her hunger to return to top-level competition.
In a season in which she said she was surprised with her results, she underlined her recovery by capturing the national triple jump title this year.
“The injuries really just forced me to work harder on the little things and showed me how much I really want to be out there doing what I love,” said Kingwill, who was born in East London where she attended Hudson Park before settling in Westering in Port Elizabeth.
“I am so grateful to be healthy again.
“It also taught me about patience and I learnt how to be content putting in the effort every day, while working towards something bigger that you can’t always see.”
Despite her refreshing approach to a tough situation, Kingwill said doubts remained over her ability to regain the form her potential demanded.
“Three years out of action gives you a lot of time to develop doubts, but it also enabled me to grow my faith,” she said.
“So in some ways I am glad to have gone through all those struggles because I have definitely come out a stronger athlete and person overall.”
Concentrating on her nutrition and working on her mental strength were two areas of intense focus for Kingwill as she fought her way back to the top.
“Nutrition plays such an important role for events in which the body takes a lot of impact like the triple jump. It’s important to be as efficient as possible to generate explosive power.
“I’ve also been working on the mental aspect, something I hadn’t spent a lot of time on in the past.”
She added that she also changed her approach to training, “learning that less is often more in training and the real value of rest”.
“Lastly I had to learn to trust the process. I’m very determined but sometimes too eager to get to the exciting part of the journey – the end result.
“Now I’ve learnt to make peace with, if not love, the less exciting parts.”
Kingwill acknowledged a number of people who had influenced her return to top-level competition.
“My strength and conditioning coach Morne Nagel helped me turn my fitness around completely,” she said. “I’m really grateful to have him on board.
“Also my mom and coach, Jenny Kingwill, has never doubted me, even when I thought I wouldn’t be able to bridge the gap.
“As a former athlete, she’s unparalleled in her understanding of the sport and makes sure that we always work according to what my needs are, instead of a generic approach.”
She added that Tim Goodenough helped her mentally, while physiotherapist Sophie Chandler played a big role in her rehabilitation.
“My sister Lyndsey and my boyfriend Daniel provided the emotional support that proved to be so necessary this season. I’m so blessed by them and I’m so appreciative for the way they have come alongside me.”
Kingwill said she remembered doing the sport from an early age, running at inter-house athletics days at school.
“I used to compete in five or six events. I just didn’t want to miss out on any of the thrills of competition. I loved it from the start.”
Although she has been selected for numerous South African age-group teams, Kingwill has never competed outside of Africa.
“My aim is to be the best athlete I can be on the day,” she said. “Knowing that, I know I will perform confidently and will walk away feeling successful.
“The first focus will, of course, be to make the final and then give it everything I have from there.”