Australian Pearl basketballer, Kaitlyn Papworth has just been announced as an Athlete Ambassador for the Virtus Oceania Asia Games 2022.
Her passion for basketball has kept the 30-year-old champion inspired heading into the Virtus Oceania Asia Games. “I just love the game and want to keep playing, doing my best and hopefully keep winning with the Pearls Women’s Basketball team,” Kaitlyn said.
Kaitlyn was born with a learning disability and in Year Six, her teachers suggested to her parents that she move to Heatherwood Special School, where she excelled in the sports program.
Kaitlyn had always shown athletic talent and in Year Seven her passion and obvious talent led to an important chance meeting in 2001 with teacher and Assistant Pearls Coach, Jo Larkin. That, combined with a strong personal ambition, meant the youngster began to make her mark.
“I was actually playing table tennis competitions at the time, but the teacher saw that I was coordinated and very tall so she suggested I should play basketball, and I instantly loved the game,” explains Kaitlyn.
Kaitlyn also showed enormous natural talent and was selected in the Australian Pearls basketball squad for the World Championships in Japan.
“I was the youngest player and didn’t make the final cut, but I was certain that I loved the game and wanted to work hard to make the team next Championships,” she says.
Three years later in 2006 Kaitlyn made the Pearls Open team to compete at the World Basketball Championships in Rome where, as a member of that team, she won a silver medal. “That was so exciting; and I felt very proud, especially as I was just 16,” she says.
However, Kaitlyn’s representative pathway took a turn when she decided to pursue her love of athletics and see where that would take her. “I thought I’d take a break from basketball and try something new and try my luck at athletics. I had always run and enjoyed it socially and wondered if I could make it at the elite level,” explains Kaitlyn.
She was selected to compete for Australia in the 2015 Global Games in Ecuador in the 400m, 800m and the relay. “I didn’t do very well and the standard was high, I realised that basketball was really where my talent and love lay. So I went back to basketball and realised I really loved playing and have been in that sport ever since.”
Her natural talent and hardworking ethic have given Kaitlyn the impetus and enthusiasm to keep achieving at the highest level. She was rewarded as captain of the Australian team that won a silver medal at the 2019 Global Games in Brisbane after a tight tussle with gold medalist Japan.
Kaitlyn’s achievements are many including Most Valued Player at the 2011 and 2013 Worlds as well as winner of the 19th Junior Basketball Award for Female Athletes in 2011 in Australia.
Her dedication has also seen Kaitlyn being selected to play with the Warrandyte Venom club in the Open Victorian Basketball competition, honing her skills as part of the Pearls squad to compete in the Virtus Oceania Asia 2022 Games being held this November in Brisbane.
“I’ve gone from the youngest member of the Pearls to now being the old lady of the team – but I prefer to see my role as a veteran and a leader,” says Kaitlyn.
“Basketball keeps me fit and motivated and has always been a great hobby of mine. I could bounce a basketball by the time I was two and always practiced with my brothers and dad in the backyard and I cannot imagine a time where I can’t enjoy bouncing that ball,” laughs Kaitlyn.
Kaitlyn will be competing in Basketball at the Virtus Oceania Asia Games 2022 for the Australian team.