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Kaleigh GILCHRIST
Sport Surfing, Water Polo
NOC United States   
GenderWomen
Born16 May 1992 in Newport Beach, CA, USA
Height1.75 m
 Human Interest 
Further Personal Information
Family
Partner Tom Gehret
Residence
Newport Beach, CA, USA
Occupation
Athlete, Business Owner
Languages
English
Higher education
Communications - University of Southern California: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Sport Specific Information
When and where did you begin this sport?
She began swimming at age five in Newport Beach, CA, United States of America. She started playing water polo at age eight or nine.
Why this sport?
One of her friends encouraged her to try the sport. "I fell in love with water polo because I have never been the greatest swimmer. I loved the competitiveness of water polo and the idea that everybody is fighting for a common goal."
Club / Team
New York Athletic Club: United States
Name of coach
Adam Krikorian [national], USA
Preferred position / style / stance / technique
Centre forward
Handedness
Right
General Interest
Nicknames
Kales, KG, Giggily [she got the nickname 'Giggily' while on holiday with fellow US water polo player Maggie Steffens' father Carlos. He called her Giggily and it stuck ever since]. (nbcolympics.com, 16 Jun 2016)
Most influential person in career
Her family. (surfcitystillworks.com, 01 Jan 2020)
Hero / Idol
US basketball player Kobe Bryant, US surfer Kelly Slater. (usawaterpolo.org, 15 Aug 2015)
Injuries
She received deep lacerations to her leg that required surgery after she was out celebrating winning a gold medal at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, Republic of Korea. She was at the 'Coyote Ugly' nightclub near the athletes' village when a balcony collapsed, killing two people and injuring 16 more. The incident left her with post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]. She returned to water polo training in October that year. (mirrorspectator.com, 12 Aug 2021; uk.sports.yahoo.co, 07 Aug 2021; msn.com, 27 Jul 2019)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"I'm too positive to be doubtful, too optimistic to be fearful, and too determined to be defeated." (usawaterpolo.org, 15 Aug 2015)
Awards and honours
In 2010 she was named the Orange County Register Athlete of the Year. (mn2s.com, 01 Jan 2017)
Other sports
She has competed in surfing at elite level, and won the US U18 championship title in 2009 and 2010. She has represented the United States of America on the World Surf League Qualifying Series. (espn.go.com, 03 May 2016; mn2s.com, 01 Jan 2017; forbes.com, 25 Mar 2020)
Famous relatives
Her father Sandy was a member of the University of Southern California swim team from 1964 to 1968 and represented Canada at the 1964 and 1968 Olympic Games. Her uncle Allen Gilchrist represented Canada in swimming at the 1948 and 1952 Olympic Games. (usawaterpolo.org, 15 Aug 2015; neontommy.com, 08 Apr 2016; nbcolympics.com, 05 Jun 2016; swimoutlet.com, 22 Sep 2016; SportsDeskOnline, 31 May 2021)
Other information
SURFING VS WATER POLO
She grew up in the water, either in the swimming pool for water polo or at the beach for surfing. She excelled in both sports, and considered surfing as a profession after winning the U18 US championship title in 2009 and 2010. In 2013 she was invited to try out for the US national water polo team for the first time, but pulled out because of surfing contests in Peru and France. Later that year she was selected for the national water polo programme and decided to focus on the sport with the goal of competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. "[My mindset while playing water polo] is very similar to my competitive surfing mindset. Surfing has way more outside variables than water polo, that if you allow your mind to get caught up in them you will lose focus on what you can actually do to put yourself in the best position to succeed." In July 2021, she said she had not ruled out returning to competitive surfing following her water polo career. "After water polo, we'll see what happens. I've learned to never say never." (worldsurfleague.com, 28 Jul 2021; Facebook profile, 09 Dec 2019; Surf Channel Television Network YouTube channel, 27 Jun 2018; neontommy.com, 08 Apr 2016; espn.go.com, 03 May 2016; nbcolympics.com, 05 Jun 2016)

PTSD
She was left with post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] after a balcony collapse at a nightclub in Gwangju, Republic of Korea in July 2019 while celebrating winning a gold medal at the world championships, which resulted in deep lacerations that required surgery. She says she also struggled after her former high school water polo coach and basketball player Kobe Bryant, who had helped her during her physical rehabilitation from the balcony collapse, passed away. "That mental aspect was a lot harder than any of the physical aspects for rehabbing and getting back. There's a lot from the incident and from those losses just to process and I wasn't able to invest myself into that. I had horse blinders on, like, 'I've got to get better physically'. Then there's little things that popped up with some panics and claustrophobia. I realised that I needed help. [The therapy] is exhausting. But I grew a lot from it. I'm proud of what I've accomplished." (uk.sports.yahoo.co, 07 Aug 2021; latimes.com, 23 Jun 2021)

OTHER ACTIVITIES
She is the co-founder of Camps4Champs alongside US water polo player Kami Craig, which runs water polo camps for athletes. She also owns a clothing brand called I Miss South Central, which sells nostalgic t-shirts, and runs a holiday let in Santa Barbara, CA, United States of America. She has served as a member of the USA Surfing High Performance Committee and has been an ambassador for non-profit cancer support community The Young and Brave Foundation. (Twitter profile, 05 Jan 2022; LinkedIn profile, 01 Jun 2021; medium.com, 24 Dec 2018; mn2s.com, 01 Jan 2017)

 Competition Highlights
Olympic Games
Rank Year Venue Event Result
1 2021 Tokyo, JPN Team  
1 2016 Rio de Janeiro, BRA Team  
World Championship
Rank Year Venue Event Result
1 2022 Budapest, HUN Team  
1 2019 Gwangju, KOR Team  
1 2015 Kazan, RUS Team  
World Cup
Rank Year Venue Event Result
1 2014 Khanty-Mansiysk, RUS Team  
Pan American Games
Rank Year Venue Event Result
1 2015 Toronto, CAN Team