Family that trains together, wins gold together

Family that trains together, wins gold together

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Triple threat: Kayla, Ilse and Chris Bongers competed together for the first time over the weekend.

A trio of Bongers trekked to Geelong to compete in the Australian Tetrathlon and Laser Run Championships at the weekend.

It was the first time national pentathlon champion Kayla Bongers had competed alongside her dad, Chris, and younger sister Ilse.

Both Chris and Ilse had been drawn into the sport while supporting Kayla to reach her sporting pinnacle.

“I said to Ilse, ‘hey, why not give the nationals a crack and see how you go?’,” Kayla said.

“And I thought, if I’m taking the two girls along, I may as well have a go myself in the Masters division,” Chris said.

“It was really good fun.”

Kayla began in flying form, recording a personal best and the second-best time overall in the swimming discipline, before injury forced her to retire early.

That enabled her to focus on coaching her 13-year-old sister through her very first national competition.

“It was exciting and nerve-wracking – both emotions equally,” Ilse said as she took on competitors older than her in the Under 15 Girls division.

Despite only resuming training again this year after a few years’ break, Ilse powered ahead – her natural running and swimming talents shining through.

“And she knew enough with fencing to take on the more experienced athletes,” Chris said.

Ilse accumulated enough points through the other disciplines to bump her handicap up, and she started first in the Laser Run.

U15 athletes ran three 600m laps and shot a laser pistol from a distance of five metres, hitting a target five times before being allowed to run on.

After an exhilarating first day of national competition, Ilse walked away with a gold medal.

Chris too claimed gold, as the only competitor in his division.

The following day the pair competed in the Laser Run Championships, with both again clinching gold.

Ilse is taking the wins in her stride, with her heart drifting towards another path to sporting glory.

“I’ve probably been very flip-floppy in my life when it comes to the things I want to achieve,” she said.

“I really love soccer, and my dream is to play in a FIFA Women’s World Cup.”

While Chris and Kayla’s headspace revolves around building the sport up in Western Australia.

Kayla has introduced the Laser Run discipline at her alma mater Rehoboth Christian College in Kenwick.

“We’re going to try getting people more involved in the Laser Run and Biathle events in WA,” she said.

And Chris is looking at building pathways to pentathlon representation through the more nationally-popular triathlon and aquathlon sports.

“Triathlons attract a large field of people, whereas the pentathlon is a more niche sport and has a smaller pool of competitors. So, it could be attractive to athletes who might be keen to represent Australia internationally, and get a podium position,” he said.

As the new president of Modern Pentathlon WA, Chris is looking forward to shepherding the sport into a new era; the Paris Olympics will be the last international competition which features the horse jumping discipline, with the more accessible and ratings-friendly Obstacle Course Race supplanting it.

“Modern Pentathlon is in a transition stage and so we’re excited for the future, and to help chart its direction here,” he said.