Hawke's Bay rollerskater Kyra Thomson has returned motivated and inspired from a stint representing her country for the first time at the World Rollersports Championships.
The 16-year-old Hastings Rollerskating Club member has skated up an age grade since winning two titles at the Oceania Rollersports Championships in April, in order to have a shot at being selected for the world champs.
"I am still Youth International grade but after winning Oceanias in cadet in 2011 I decided to move up an age grade above my then-age grade, to Youth to challenge myself. I won Youth this year so thought it would be amazing to be able to skate alongside the world's best so decided to have a go in the Junior International grade," Thomson said.
Skating at the recent Auckland-hosted world championships alongside the top two skaters from 26 countries including Italy, Brazil, Argentina and Spain, where skating is regarded as rugby is in New Zealand, was everything Thomson dreamed of and more.
"The level the top countries skate at with girls doing two revolutions in the air before landing a jump and boys doing four, with skaters spinning on two wheels in all sorts of incredible positions is a real physical feat which also looks beautiful," Thomson said.
"It was an honour to represent my country and see what can be achieved."
Despite a throat and ear infection raging at its worst on the first day she had to compete, meaning the insulin-dependent diabetic had to skate not only feeling terrible, but with a high temperature and uncontrollably high blood sugars, she said she was pleased with her 19th placing.
"I could barely stand up straight on the day of my short programme [jumps, spins and fancy footwork choreographed to music] and I skated terribly," Thomson said
"It was so disappointing after the first three days of official trainings going really well and me skating at my peak as we had planned."
"But I needed to skate the short programme to be able to skate the second part of the event the next day. The antibiotics had kicked in a bit by the next day when I had to skate my long programme, which was good. I did a better job though still not my best," she said.
"Because of being sick I was happy to place 19th in a field of much older, more experienced skaters. Had I not been sick I am confident I would have done much better," Thomson said.
"This year is very much a year of learning so I can set myself up to skate well in the future.
"By skating in the junior grade, the youngest grade able to be selected at World Championship level, I was able to put myself forward for selection to skate at Worlds.
"I had no illusions I would be anywhere but near the bottom and my goal going in was to place in the top 20.
"Even being sick I was pleased I achieved that.
"It was a motivating and inspiring experience and an excellent learning experience.
"Skating alongside people who have international names and reputations is incredible.
"This 2012/2013 year is all about challenging myself and gaining experience because I have three more years left that I can compete at junior level so I want to make the most of them," Thomson said.
"I expected to be nervous and thought this first champs would help me learn to control them. I was a bit sick to worry about being nervous. Now I know I can do it even when I am sick, that should help me if I am ever lucky enough to be selected again.
"As a type one diabetic I have an extra level of things to deal with, like finger pricking to test blood sugars every few hours, and carefully balancing food and drink intake with up to seven insulin injections a day. For the first time in 25 years world championships were held in New Zealand and they probably won't be here for at least another 25, so it was great to have my first worlds in a country with no time zone issues and no food issues and, as it turned out, easy access to competent medical care."
"I have represented New Zealand at Oceania Championships for the past three years and been very proud to do that. I have been even more proud to win two gold medals and Oceania titles each of the last two years. But skating at worlds was my proudest moment so far, despite me not being able to show the audience what I really can do."
The top two skaters from each country were selected for each discipline at the champs. Italy won 16 gold medals, 12 silver and eight bronze.
The next highest medal winning country was Argentina with three gold, six silver and four bronze. Next year's champs will be held in Chinese Taipei.