#Santiago2023Ambassadors: Kristel Köbrich, icon of Chilean Olympic Swimming

Residing in Cordoba, Argentina, and with 20 years of career, the Olympic swimmer is one of the new faces of the Games Ambassadors team.

Inspired by her sisters who are swimmers and her mother who is a sport teacher, Kristel has a special place in the Olympic history of our country.

At 37 years, the Chilean swimmer has been part of diverse Olympic Games: Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016, and Tokyo 2020, participating in various disciplines such as 400 and 800 meters, and her favorite, the 1,500 meter freestyle (admitted in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic program). 

Recently, the swimmer obtained her seventieth medal at the Asuncion 2022 South American Games, winning the gold medal in the 1,500 meters competition.

In addition to her international competitions, she talked with us about her new challenge of being part of the team of our Games.

What does it mean to become a Santiago 2023 Ambassador?
It is an honor, a pride. The truth is I feel very lucky and thankful. And I hope to do my best to represent Chile in the Pan American Games, a megaevent for us, so we are all eager and we want to really enjoy it in the best possible way. 

How does it feel to be an inspiration for many girls that today practice swimming?
Truth be told, it is a great responsibility. But I take it on with a lot of heart. This means I transmit what I love, which is this passion for swimming. So, I’m really happy and I hope that this spreads even more and gets more children to practice swimming or any other sport.

Köbrich goes after her sixth Olympic Games

The athlete, who had an outstanding performance during Tokyo 2020, was considered the best Latin American swimmer in 2021, according to the website Best Swimming. 

Kristel has achieved other historical milestones in her discipline. For example, in the Swimming Championship 2007 where she accomplished being the first Chilean swimmer to be part of a World final.

Among the biggest challenges in her 2023 agenda, the Olympic swimmer will attend the Fukuoka 2023 World Aquatics Championship that will be held in Japan in July. After that, she will represent Team Chile in our Santiago 2023 Pan American and Parapan American Games that will start in October.

What are your personal goals for 2023? 
We still have a World Championship in Japan which is very important, and then afterwards we have the Pan American Games. In a few months, the qualification window is going to open for the Olympic Games which may become my sixth one.

What is the meaning of an event like Santiago 2023 to be hosted at home?
I am very happy and thankful. We went through something similar with the South American Games in 2014, which were hosted in Santiago. We were able to see people lining up to see the sports, people that couldn’t get in, all venues at full capacity, not only in swimming to support me, but everywhere, is something really beautiful, and very hard to describe. There were our families with us too, all the people showing their love. At some point, it was really overwhelming, because it surpassed all expectations. So whatever happens now, I’m thankful and I hope everyone enjoys this festival. 

How are you preparing for the Paris 2024 qualifiers?
We are taking it step by step, we know that there are qualifiers, that there are minimum times, and that we can qualify again, but we also know that this year is a particular one and we want to see it like that, always training and focused on the objective which is to do the best I can.

Which are the differences between the previous Olympic cycles and this one?
We know the cycles are every 4 years, but there is work behind it. It was necessary to  postpone the Olympic Games one year, and we lived it in a very particular way. We lived and learned with it, we had to adapt and that is what I always mention: each competition, each tournament, each Pan American Games is different. The passion is the same, being able to represent your country is still a blessing and I’m very happy to be able to continue doing what I love. 

Building a legacy

The five times Chilean representative in the Olympic Games has an impeccable career that she pretends to keep building and improving in the present.

Her experience in Olympic swimming is not just reflected in her medals and participation in the Games, but also in her wish to transmit what sports mean for a whole society.

What is the secret to continuing in the high-performance circuit for so long?
We are all unique and we try to really keep making history but obviously, there is hard work behind it, there is a team that supports me. A coach that really follows up on me, supports me and without a doubt is walking beside me, keeping up with me, with this craziness of continuing to do what I love, knowing what all of it means, which is work, discipline, passion for what you do. It is just passion and really understanding that this is what I like and I try to be as coherent as possible with myself. 

In prior events, how was your experience with volunteers?
Volunteers are a very important part of it all, since they are the ones that guide us, help us, and have answers that we might need immediately. They are the ones that are always smiling, supporting us, and trying to solve our issues and they are always there. So I make a call to everyone to participate and join us in this new adventure that is Santiago 2023. 

How important is it for you to spread sport and its values among children?
I hope that we, as athletes, may really pass on and understand that sports are the most beautiful thing in the world, it brings us together, there is no discrimination. When you really understand what you love, what your passion is, you make a move; and that is the sports culture we, as high-performance athletes, want to transmit at all times. I hope that it reaches every school, every kindergarten, every arena, every house in Chile, and beyond its borders too. 


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