Campbellsville University alumnus women’s wrestler to compete in 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A Campbellsville University alumnus is heading to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Kayla Miracle, a four-time WCWA National Champion during her time at Campbellsville University, will head to Japan in a few weeks to compete in her first Olympic games.
“Four-year-old Kayla was like, ‘I want to be an Olympic gold medalist,’” Kayla Miracle told WAVE 3 News. “But women’s wrestling wasn’t in the Olympics. So it was kind of a lofty goal.”
Women’s wrestling wasn’t apart of the Olympics until 2004. Once that happened, she said she knew she had a chance.
Kayla Miracle’s father, Lee Miracle, was also her coach growing up and throughout her collegiate career at Campbellsville University.
“We actually built this program together,” he said. “From day one I knew she was special because she just had a love for it and a drive for it to win that’s really something you don’t see very often.”
Lee Miracle has coached the women’s wrestling team since 2013, one year before his daughter joined the team. Since then, he has led the women’s wrestling team to two WCWA National Championships and now has 14 WCWA Individual National Champions. He also led the team to take home the school’s first ever NAIA Team National Championship.
“I’m glad I had him as a college coach because he’s the one that was going to push me the way I needed to be pushed and he held me accountable to my dreams,” Kayla Miracle said.
Over the years, each tournament finetuned her focus for her goals, she said.
“In 2018, I lost for the world team spot,” Kayla Miracle said. “It was a best two-out-of-three series. I won the first and lost the next two. And I lost the world team spot and that was devastating, but that really changed the focus.”
In 2019, she made her first World Team. In 2020, she was prepared to make the team again but everything was pushed back due to COVID-19. She qualified for the weight requirement, which is 62 kg, which put her in the finals for the Olympic trials.
“The focus got more and more clear and it was like, wow, this is a real possibility, even through so many losses,” Kayla Miracle said. “I am so close. I’m right there. I can taste it.”
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In April 2021, Kayla Miracle qualified for the Olympic team in a best-of-three series, which extended to three matches. She won the first match 8-4, but her opponent Macey Kilty won the second match 4-3. In the final third match, Kilty suffered a shoulder injury and had to withdraw, giving Kayla Miracle the win and a spot on the Olympic Team.
She said she hated to see Kilty injured.
“Seeing her on the mat and hurt it didn’t feel good,” Kayla Miracle said. “For me, I had to be so calm and ready to go.”
After the match was over, she said she was rushing from coaches to teammates to interviews, she didn’t have a moment to stop and think about the fact that she won. At the team presentation, it all hit her.
“The first moment of stillness it was like wow, I did it. I qualified,” Kayla Miracle said. “The first piece of the puzzle is placed and now I can focus on winning that Olympic gold.”
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Kayla Miracle’s family can’t join her in Tokyo because of COVID protocols, but her father said they will be watching no matter what time of day her match is.
“I think anytime you get to see one of your children achieve something they’ve put so much into and worked so hard for and shed tears over, many many times, I think that on any stage is great, but the Olympic stage, it’s pretty surreal,” Lee Miracle said.
Kayla Miracle is also the first openly gay female wrestler to ever compete in the Olympics.
“It’s crazy because USA Wrestling is just very welcoming and just supportive of everybody regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation,” she said. “And there are other out wrestlers, they just haven’t made the team. So that’s where the differentiation is.”
Kayla Miracle leaves for Japan on July 17. After she and her Team USA teammates get there, they will have a few weeks to adjust to the weather, especially the humidity. On August 3, Kayla said she will have her first match.
“All those losses, the silver medals, the bronze medals, as much as they suck, they have shaped me into who I am,” she said. “And it’s given me a different level of grit that, you know, someone maybe they’ve won their whole entire life and they get to the Olympics, it’s like they don’t know how to fight. They don’t know that feeling of losing and being so close, but I do so it’s going to give me a little bit of an extra oomph.”
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