Kyle is a perfect example of what can be achieved with a healthy helping of discipline, combined with a passion for self-betterment. Although, he doesn’t seem to deep it that much… preferring to view diving as a source of enjoyment, and, from what I gathered, the first of many self-inflicted challenges he expects to encounter over his lifetime.
From his local gym in North London as a 4-year-old with too much energy, to a 22-year-old Olympic hopeful, determination has been at the centre of it all. In this interview he gives us a taste of his life as an athlete, explains how coronavirus has been a blessing in disguise for his sporting career, and walks us through his competition rituals and favourite workout playlists.
This is what was said when MSM met Team GB Diver, Kyle Kothari…
JS: Hi Kyle. How are things?
KK: I’m good thanks. Just enjoying lockdown at the moment, but training has started up again.
JS: Talk us through your journey so far. How did you end up diving for team GB?
KK: I grew up in Harrow and started gymnastics at three years old, and then did that til I was 11. Around that time, I was ranked 4th in the country for my age so I was dead set on doing gymnastics and getting to the Olympics.
Then I broke my left elbow… fractured it and tore the ligament. During recovery I started diving one day a week, then two a week, then three… and within a year I was competing.
After 3 and a half years I was ranked number 1 in Europe and rank 3 in the world for under 18s. Since then I’ve had a lot of injuries and have been in and out of the Grand Prix circuit.
I’ve been training for over 25 hours a week since I was 11 years old really… but now I’ve finished Uni so it’s been a lot easier. It’s the first time in my life I’ve had free time.
JS: You’re a busy guy. If you could eliminate one task from your life, what would it be?
KK: Planning and scheduling… life admin. I’d have way more time to do the things that are actually useful.
JS: What’s a typical day in your life like at the moment…
KK: At the start of lockdown, I’d wake up, have a zoom workout or go for a run or a bike ride, then at lunchtime have another workout. If I didn’t have one, I’d do somersaults in the garden - diving specific stuff. Then at about 4:15 I’d have another workout.
But now we’re back at the pool, training outside, and we should be back in the gym soon. We’re in the pool from 10:30 to 1. And I’ve been doing a data analysis internship to keep myself busy. Then every Saturday I meet up with uni mates in the park, like most people are doing.
JS: Discipline is obviously key to being successful as a competitive diver, but even more so while balancing work and training. What motivates you to keep your head down?
KK: Yeah, discipline’s probably the most important thing. But it gets drilled into you so much that I’m used to it now… I don’t really have to think about disciplining myself.
What motivates me to keep my head down is that anything I want to do, I want to do properly. If I do one thing, I put 100% into it. If I do two things, like I chose to do uni and training, I don’t want either of them to suffer so I just make it work.
JS: And following from that, how do you measure your success? How do you celebrate it?
KK: Generally, when I’m unsuccessful I don’t get too low and when I’m successful I don’t get too high. I’m quite mundane in that sense, I never really go crazy when I’m celebrating. Sometimes dinner with family or a night out with friends.
In terms of measuring success… I try to keep my standards realistic so I’m not disappointed or expecting something that’s impossible. So as long as I’m doing something, I’m happy doing and enjoying it, that’s success to me. You don’t just do sport for the medals, you’d struggle to keep motivation, you have to enjoy it.
JS: Do you have any competition rituals? How do you get in the right zone to perform?
KK: I like to watch the competition, see what’s going on. See what points I need, see what other competitors are doing. I’ll get a coaching comment from my coach, go up to the board and run through the drill once, like a visualisation of the dive.
Then I’ll wet a towel and cover my face.
Then I’ll throw my towel down, take my time, and treat it like training. We always look over the end of the board to see no one’s swimming under it… in competition you know no one’s gonna be there but I tend to look over the board anyway, to keep the habit I suppose.
I like being laid back and having a joke and a laugh, but when it comes to about 10 divers before my go, I tend to stop joking around and start to focus. I have some songs that can switch my mood very quickly and can put me in a focused state of mind. Usually something quite heavy, like electronic or atmospheric techno… something quite dark.
JS: What’s your go-to playlist when you’re training/exercising?
KK: If I choose the music, it’s gonna be my playlist called ‘On the decks’… songs I like to DJ. And if we’re going hard I have one called ‘Children of the Amen Break’ which is jungle and breakbeat.
JS: What are your plans for the future? 1-year plan and 5-year plan.
KK: In January we have Nationals, which is selection for the World Cup and other competitions which will be selection for the Tokyo Olympics 2021.
Five years… I think I’ll keep training until Paris 2024, then after that I’ll try and get a job, something I actually enjoy. Which is why I’m doing a bit of work experience here and there, but I’ve got three years to work out what I want to do so there’s no rush.
JS: If there were no limits, financially or otherwise, how would you spend your retirement?
KK: If I could retire now I’d do loads of stupid feats and challenges, like cycling from Beijing to Tehran, or taking a car the longest possible journey. Maybe summit some mountains.
If I was older, I’d probably live in different countries for a while. Or maybe just chill out, I’ll be done by then.
JS: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your involvement in sport?
KK: You can be good at something, but if you don’t enjoy it, there’s no point doing it.
You need to have something else… another motivation besides medals and winning. It has to come from this appreciation for travelling, the people you meet and the lifestyle that comes with being a sportsperson.
JS: Last time we spoke, we discussed your injury and plans for the future… but that was before Corona Virus and its implications. What’s changed? How did you deal with lockdown?
KK: Corona has been a massively good thing for me because I was injured and missed Olympic qualifiers in January, so I was in no contention for going to Tokyo 2020.
So I’ve got another chance.
I’ve been training through lockdown to catch myself up physically to the rest of the team and my competitors. Now it’s just a case of getting back in the pool and seeing how quickly I get into the swing of things.
I’ve been staying with my Uni mates. At the beginning when I wasn’t training, I liked it because I got to relive a bit of that Uni-life feeling.
London was empty and it was nice to enjoy it, and I was doing a lot of different training I never would have done before.
What’s a better invention - the mobile phone or the aeroplane?
Phone. People could get by with boats.
It’s my goal to never own a car.
Beer, wine, water or weed?
The right decision as an athlete is probably water, isn’t it? But I do like a beer.
Music, TV, films or theatre?
Comedy or drama?
Country you want to visit?
Tattoos or piercings?
What do you want to be remembered for when you die?
Honestly, I could not care. I’m quite content with just enjoying my time and then when I’m dead… that’s it.
What’s your favourite news source?
Google cards and Youtube. And I read the newspaper on the train… the Times or the Metro.
Favourite clothing brand?
It has to be Uniqlo. But I do like shopping at Cos, Arket and Zara occasionally. I would like to shop more sustainably though.
Nike VaporflyNEXT%. They’re so impressive from an engineering point of view. They helped Kipchoge break his two-hour marathon time… I think that’s a pretty good contender for best shoe of all time.
What’s your go-to online dating bio?
The prompts I have on Hinge are…
Unusual skills: ‘I fall off stuff for a living’.
We’re the same time of weird if: ‘you eat cold fruit in a scolding hot shower’.
Together we could: ‘Redesign a van and travel with it’… I’ve been obsessed with the tiny living thing for the past few years.
Words and Interview: Jack Siggs