Kimberley McKinney guns for Kona

The runner up at Ironman 70.3 Colombo had to pass on her Kona slot last year after being sidelined by a bike accident. Kimberley McKinney is back, though, and has her sights aimed on Kona once again.

| March 14, 2019 | PERSONALITY

Kimberley McKinney celebrates her runner-up finish at Ironman 70.3 Colombo.

Kimberley McKinney celebrates her runner-up finish at Ironman 70.3 Colombo.

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

She led out of the water. Opened up more time on the bike. Through the halfway point of the run she still had a sizeable lead on Singapore's Ling Er Choo, but then the wheels fell off.

"The swim was good," Brisbane, Australia's Kimberley McKinney said after her runner-up finish to Choo at Ironman 70.3 Colombo. "The biking was good – I felt strong out there. The run ... I’ve still got fitness to work on. I’m pretty happy with where my fitness is at, but, obviously, I’ve got a lot of work to do."

Work is obviously something McKinney, who has just moved up an age group and now competes in the 30 to 34 category, has no problems embarking on. Her rise to the highest levels of the sport has all come in just a few years. Born in Canada, McKinney moved to Australia's Gold Coast when she was 15 months old. She went to high school in Singapore, then ended up back in Canada for university. After starting work at KPMG as a chartered accountant, she transferred back to the Gold Coast through KPMG, but has since started working for an insurance company in Brisbane.

Growing up, McKinney played tennis, ran some cross country and did a bit of swimming through school. It wasn't until 2016, though, that McKinney turned her sights to triathlon.

"When I was growing up, I heard about triathlon, but it appeared too intimidating to give it a go," she said. "But, in 2016, two things changed my mindset. My grandpa, a very special guy, became very sick and passed away late that year. Each time I saw him he would say 'Kim, do what makes you happy.' Secondly, my best friend trained and competed in a couple triathlons and encouraged me to enter into my first triathlon with her, which I did. I joined the local swim squad, purchased my first road bike and received my first training schedule from a family friend, who is currently a professional triathlete, and the rest is history. I wouldn't trade triathlon for anything else, it is my happy place, there is nothing else more fulfilling to me than pushing my mental and physical boundaries each time I get to train and race."

As much as she likes it, she's also really good. In December, 2017, just her second year in the sport, McKinney qualified for Kona thanks to a blazing 8:43 (seventh overall and top age grouper) finish at Ironman Western Australia. She never got to compete in Kona, though.

"In late July 2018, I had a bike accident," she said. "It was a Sunday morning and the triathlon squad was scheduled to do a 100 km time trial along one of the bike-friendly highways in preparation for Kona. It was winter time, so it was dark, extremely cold and it was year end at work, so I was not only fatigued from training, but also from work ... I had a bad gut feeling, but I ignored it because I hate not following through with my prescribed training. Approximately five minutes into the ride I was still concentrating on getting warm and I was descending at approximately 50 to 60 km/h, so I had my head down. I looked up and saw a dead kangaroo on the road, I had the option to hit it, or go off into the ditch, I chose the former, which I assume sent me flying into the air and skidding along the road. It all happened really quickly. My bike had some damage, but I was left with a cracked helmet, scrapes on my face, hip, elbows and, worst of all, two fractures in my pelvis. I was not allowed to do any form of exercise and missed out on the Ironman World Championship."

McKinney leads the women out of the water at Ironman 70.3 Colombo.

McKinney leads the women out of the water at Ironman 70.3 Colombo.

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

"I went a little crazy not training for three months," McKinney adds. "It was one of the hardest times of my life."

So, McKinney's "lots of work to do" comment is actually misleading - considering she wasn't able to start training until late October last year, her performance in Sri Lanka was more than a little impressive.

Not impressive enough, though, to allow her to stick to her original plan of competing in the full-distance race at Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie. Instead, she'll most likely look to compete in a couple more half-distance races and possibly hit Ironman Hamburg in July.

Where she'll hopefully net herself another slot for Kona and finally get her chance to compete on the Big Island. In her mind she might have "work to do," but from where we're sitting, she's on the right track.