Check out our pre-Asian Games features: Nikko Huelgas and John Chicano.
Things could have been very different if Kim Kilgroe hadn’t committed all her money into triathlon in 2016.
Would she have been toeing the line alongside the region’s top triathletes at her first Asian Games?
Would she have the time to travel to training camps all over the world challenging limits?
Starting out as an age-group athlete who picked up triathlon in 2012 at the age of 23, Kilgroe is a late entrant to the competitive scene. Most of her peers started the sport a decade younger, some even earlier.
She had no swim background, and though she did some running in cross country and track and field, was never fast enough to compete at the national school level.
Said Kilgroe, “People will ask me, ‘How old are you and how long do you think you can be a triathlete for?’ in a judgemental kind of way. ‘You’re getting too old,’ they say.”
When she first found triathlon through a running club coach, it ignited her latent dream of becoming an Olympian, something she stopped aiming for in running. Her job as a sports model allowed her to train thanks to a flexible schedule, but she still needed the finances before diving into the sport.
After saving for four years, she converted into a full-time athlete. That money funded training camps with her coach, Brett Sutton, in Switzerland and Korea.
It was a move was that contrasted with her upbringing. Her parents would have projections of a ‘safer route’ for her and were not encouraging of her taking too many risks. But she had always yearned for the opposite.
“I told myself I’ll do whatever it takes because I know there’s something in me that needs to be expressed,” said Kilgroe. “I’m a newbie at everything, but I had such a desire to get started on the journey and see where I can go that I was willing to do whatever it took.”
Any lingering doubts about why she was throwing so much money into a pursuit with no guaranteed returns was thrown out the window after the 2015 Chengdu ITU Triathlon World Cup. It was her first year donning the national colours and only her second race as an elite. She held low expectations of her swim leg based on her minimal swim practice.
But not to the extent that played out.
“It’s like you’re in an ocean and there’s no one there. And you’re like ‘I thought I was in a race,’” she said.
Kilgroe came out three minutes behind everyone else, got on the bike, and soon after got lapped out.
Walking back to her place, she felt embarrassed.
That day, she wrote in her diary, “This is the most awesome day ever because that’s the worst race of my life.”
The less-than-desirable result gave her a visual. “I need to get from this to that,” she told herself. That day, she knew she wanted to go all in.
Since then, she has been consistently doing monster swim sets of up to 80km per week and cultivating more love for the sport. She reasons that if it is not something she loves daily, she would not be able to do it for many years.
“I love getting beat in sessions,” said Kilgroe. “I don’t want to be a big fish in a small pond. That’s not fun for me because I’m not pushing myself to the maximum.”
These days, her philosophy is to live a life beyond her perceived limitations.
“If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t do anything I’m doing now,” she asserted.
Having qualified for the Asian Games, Kilgroe continues to defy and amaze her age critics. Just as she and her coach believes, she can still reach new heights. It’s just a matter of sticking to the process.