Kelmscott star Kayla Bongers has flexed her muscles on the world stage for the first time after competing at the Under 19 Modern Pentathlon World Championships in Istanbul last week.
This personal milestone also marks her down in national history as the very first Australian athlete to compete in the new modern pentathlon since a landmark decision to replace the equestrian discipline with an obstacle course race (OCR) late last year.
Kayla said she was happy with the way she handled the obstacle course element which is being described by world media outlets as a ninja-warrior style race.
“I finished the course, but some people got eliminated as this was everyone’s first time doing it,” she said.
A last-minute entry to the world championships meant Kayla wasn’t as prepared as she’d hoped to be for the event. And after a two-month pause on training due to a shin splint and potential stress fracture diagnosis, Kayla said she wasn’t at peak performance.
“I also had 10 points deducted from the OCR and a 10-second penalty on the first shoot due to the fact that the shirt I was provided with from my national federation didn’t have my name printed on the back,” she said.
“This made it really hard to come back, especially after the emotional drain of it all.
“But the cool thing was that I had people from different countries coming up and supporting me in those tough moments, especially as I had no coach or parents there.
“That’s the thing about Modern Pentathlon – it’s a community. We all support each other.”
In spite of all that was against her, the Australian champ finished up in 31st place in her group and says she learned some valuable lessons from the experience.
“Because this was my first international competition ever, I have learnt a lot, such as ‘don’t be afraid to chat to people and reach out if you need help with something’. Most people are willing to help,” she said.
“The first day, where I didn’t know anyone, was a bit lonely. But after connecting with the Great Britain team and the New Zealand team and later on in the week the Guatemala, Chinese Taipei and Canadian teams, I had people to hang out with which was nice.
“There is of course sometimes a language barrier, where you maybe don’t speak the same language, but somehow you work it out, and if not, google translate.”
Kayla admits she has a lot of work to do to improve on an international level.
“But I’m prepared to do it. It’s harder in Australia, as it’s not a big sport, hence why I’m in Europe till November,” she said.
Her next competition will be the Laser Run World Championships in Bath, England next month, then she’ll catapult herself into the OCR World Championships in Genk, Belgium.
“And then in November on the way home, I’m stopping in Bali, Indonesia for the Biathle/Triathle World Championships, where my family may join me in competing,” she said.