Reinaldo Llerena // Staff Writer
While some athletes leave their countries looking for a better education, one FIU swimmer came to the United States in search of an opportunity.
Kyna Pereira, a junior freestyle swimmer from South Africa, arrived at FIU seeking more opportunities to swim competitively. Pereira said that there was not much emphasis on sports in South Africa, and it was the main reason for her arrival in the U.S.
“[College sports in South Africa] are not set up the way it is here in the U.S. with the different conferences,” Pereira said. “You can get a scholarship toward academics, but that’s it. To look for a competitive swimming environment, you had to look elsewhere because there weren’t many opportunities in South Africa.”
Born in the small coastal town of Umkomaas, the South African native came to the United States in search of improving her swimming career. In her two years at FIU, Pereira has broken three school records in the 200-meter freestyle, the 1000-meter freestyle and the 1650-meter freestyle.
All three of Pereira’s school records were broken during last year’s Conference USA championships. Pereira swam a 1:46.46 in the 200 free, a 9:51.70 in the 1000 free and a 16:24.36 in the 1650 free in the conference championship. Her times in the 1000 and the 1650 free were both four seconds faster than the previous school record held by Sonia Perez.
Although Umkomaas is located near the coast, Pereira said her hometown did not have any dedicated swimming facilities and no one would swim in the coast because of the cold temperatures.
“I would have to travel sometimes over an hour to reach the closest training facility,” Pereira said. “Compared to home, Miami is much better for my swimming career than Umkomaas. I could walk about five minutes and have access to the facilities I need to better myself as a swimmer.”
Although the change of country may have helped Pereira better her swimming career, the South African native faced a language barrier, despite English being her only language. She quickly learned that the dialect in the U.S. is vastly different than South Africa.
“Supposedly, my accent was pretty thick and hard to understand when I first arrived in the U.S.,” Pereira said. “It was so thick my roommates when I was a freshman could not understand me. I had to repeat things three or four times for them to understand me. Supposedly, my accent has gotten lighter, but I honestly don’t know how I sound anymore.”
To this day, Pereira says she still has trouble communicating with fellow students because of her accent, which is a mix of South African and Australian. Pereira is pursuing a double major in education and psychology.
The FIU swimming and diving team gets underway on Sept. 30 at the University of Miami. The first event will begin at 6 p.m. in Coral Gables.