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Women and Girls: Local woman competes in Ironman world championships

Thunder Bay's Kayla Kjellman is embracing the chance to push her limits at the Ironman world championships in Hawaii.

It is hard to find balance in life while juggling a career and training for one of the most gruelling sports in the world.

But for thirty-year-old Thunder Bay woman Kayla Kjellman, it’s just another moment to shine and push her limits.

Born and raised in Nipigon-Red Rock, Kjellman grew up looking up to athletic role models in her life.

She dreamt of being an athlete, but while her career switched directions, her heart always remained in sport.

“When I was a kid, I always wanted to be an athlete,” she said. “I didn’t have any skills, but I put in a tremendous amount of work and preserved.”

She started with long-distance races in high school, and in university, tried her shot at triathlon.

After intense training, Kjellman participated in Ironman championships three years ago, which inspired her to train and qualify for the world championships.

The race, considered one of the most competitive in the world, is set to invite over 4,000 athletes, in both amateur and professional categories, for a one-day championship this week at Kona, Hawaii after a three-year pandemic hiatus.

Qualifying athletes embark on a 140.6-mile journey, taking them through lava fields, that will present an ultimate test for athletes’ bodies, minds and spirits.

“I’m excited,” Kjellman said, “and just to qualify and finish is a huge thing.”

As a registered nurse seeing others confront life’s challenges, she said she was inspired to have a healthy body-and-mind relationship.

She said that even though sometimes one might feel tired, it’s imperative to tune out the voice that says “I can’t,” and get into training mode.

“Knowing I can try to push my own limit is satisfying,” she says.

The triathlon athlete will participate in the World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in the amateur category.

She hopes to draw on a mantra from her Finnish heritage, “Sisu” – meaning tenacity and hard work – as words of encouragement and inspire others to work hard and keep showing up.

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