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Gator Babe

UF's Kari Klinkenborg is a stunner on (and off) the court

Posted: Tuesday February 27, 2007 11:03AM; Updated: Tuesday February 27, 2007 3:46PM
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By Nick Zaccardi

It's always been Kari Klinkenborg's dream to make Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue. For now, the Florida volleyball player will have to settle for SI On Campus.

After modeling through high school and her freshman year at Florida, Kari is on a hiatus to focus on volleyball.
After modeling through high school and her freshman year at Florida, Kari is on a hiatus to focus on volleyball.
Photo courtesy of Kari Klinkenborg

Klinkenborg modeled four years ago in high school, but has taken a hiatus from the hobby due to the demands of her volleyball schedule. Only a couple of her teammates know about her work off the court.

"I don't really talk about it," said Klinkenborg, a junior middle blocker. "It's kind of almost like a separate life I guess when I'm away from volleyball. Only my close friends and family know."

Playing for the Front Range Juniors club team and Highlands Ranch (Colo.) High School, Klinkenborg couldn't find the time to pursue modeling. At first, she even scoffed at the idea with her rigorous practice schedule.

"What finally got me to do it was one of my friends kept saying 'You need to model. You need to model. I know an agent,'" said the 6-foot-2 Klinkenborg. "I was always like, 'Just drop it. I'm not going to do it.' My friend just kept nagging me. I finally went and met with (an agent). I started booking jobs. The pay wasn't bad, so I might as well do this as a side job when I have time."

She signed on with Maximum Talent Agency in Denver and did everything from high-end fashion shows to Sports Authority catalogs to jeans and T-shirt ads. She modeled clothing from Robert Cavalli, Nike and Under Armour. But, again, her other life got in the way.

After an injury-riddled junior year, Kari is hoping to recover next fall and bring the Gators a national championship.
After an injury-riddled junior year, Kari is hoping to recover next fall and bring the Gators a national championship.
Photo by Jim Burgess

"It's always been pretty difficult because I played for a club that was pretty strict as far as practicing, pretty time-consuming," Klinkenborg said. "I did have to pass up quite a few job opportunities for modeling because of practicing and traveling."

Her schedule with the Gators has kept her away from runways and photo shoots. She hasn't modeled since doing a catalog her freshman year. But during that span, Florida has extended its reign in Southeastern Conference volleyball. The Gators have now won 16 straight SEC titles.

Florida lost in the Sweet 16 to eventual national champion Nebraska this past season as Klinkenborg watched from the sideline. She missed most of the campaign with an ankle injury, making a return beginning against Florida State on Sept. 13.

Even then, Klinkenborg said she was only at 50 percent. It showed, as she played 15 matches with no starts and just five kills.

"Coming off a sophomore season where I was playing pretty much every game, it was frustrating and difficult to stay on the sidelines," Klinkenborg said. "It was something that was out of my control. Injuries come at bad times. I think it's made me a stronger person and made me appreciate even more the times I've been on the court."

She'll suit up for her final season with the Gators in the fall, and after that, perhaps a chance to fulfill her dream of appearing in the SI Swimsuit issue. Until then, however, SI on Campus will have to suffice.

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