17.06.2008 – Graham Croker
Sydney University wrestling Blue, Dr Kyla Bremner, will become the first female wrestler to represent Australia at the Olympics when she contests the 48kg freestyle division at the 2008 Beijing Games in August.
Bremner pre-qualified for selection when she won her division at the Oceania trials in Canberra and has since received notification of her Olympic berth from Swiss-based FILA, the sport’s governing body, and from the Australian Olympic Committee.
As a practising doctor, the 31-year-old literally heals and hurts on the same day.
“I keep my private life away from work, so none of my patients would know about Beijing,” she says. “But I do talk about it a lot with colleagues and they have been fantastic.
“They have been OK swapping shifts with me at late notice when I have had to train or travel … they are usually very happy to help me out.
“I have had to become very disciplined with balancing work and training, even though it means I don’t get a lot of time to see my friends or family.”
But this matters little now that she’s Beijing bound.
“I am just so, so excited,” Bremner says. “To be the first woman to wrestle for Australia is something I’m proud of … now I just can’t wait to get over there.”
Bremner is Australia’s best-ranked wrestler, having finished 17th of 38 at the World Championships at Baku in Azerbaijan. She remains in full training with Sydney University Wrestling Club coach Leonid Zaslavsky.
She took up wrestling 14 years ago while an undergraduate, after trying gymnastics, track and field and soccer. And she’s been dreaming of the Olympics ever since.
“There is no doubt that I could have gotten where I am today without the initial backing of the Sydney University Women’s Sports Association, and following amalgamation, the exceptional support of Sydney University Sport,” she said in a letter to SUSF.
“In 1999 I was studying at the Australian National University and training for wrestling at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. But when I moved to Sydney I decided to take a year away from the sport.
“At O-Week in 2000 I joined the Sydney University Rock Climbing and Mountaineering Club, and quickly became actively involved in SURMC activities. I learned how to climb both indoors and in the Blue Mountains, gained skills in rope safety and crag rescue, and even started to lead club climbing trips starting in 2001.
“In January of 2001 I was given a grant from SUWSA to attend an all-women technical mountaineering course in the New Zealand Mount Cook region, and learned basic mountaineering skills such as cramponing, crevasse rescue, ice climbing and navigation. More than once I competed for Sydney University at the Eastern and Australian University Games, and in 2001 was named to the Australian University Sport Green and Gold team for rock climbing.
“In 2001 I tentatively applied for my first sports scholarship with SUWSA, and was awarded a $500 annual scholarship for both rock climbing and wrestling. Unfortunately, even though I became an Australian representative in wrestling later that year, because the Wrestling Club was only a men’s club, I wasn’t eligible for a Blue until after the amalgamation of SUWSA and the Sydney University Sports Union in 2003.”
Bremner says she became quite serious about wrestling in 2001 and attended the 2001 and 2002 World Wrestling Championships as well as a few international training camps and tournaments. “This was all made possible through financial assistance from the Sportswomen’s Fund,” she says. “Women’s wrestling was added to the Olympic program in Athens in 2004, but unfortunately I lost the national final in 2003 and my opponent did not manage to subsequently qualify for those Games.”
Bremner entered the Graduate Medical Program in 2003 and wrestling was put on the backburner during the past three years of medical studies.
She volunteered to spend most of her final two years at rural clinical schools in Dubbo and Broken Hill and, with no wrestling in those areas, she was off the mat for two years.
On returning to Sydney full-time in 2007 to undertake her internship at Bankstown Hospital, she returned to training for wrestling.
“I was really enjoying it,” she says, “so I decided to try competition again. I kept winning and all of a sudden I find myself a member of the 2008 Australian Olympic Team to Beijing!”
While Bremner will be travelling with six male wrestlers chosen to compete, she says she has at least one friend on the Beijing team.
“I went to university with one of the canoeists, Lachlan Milne (a University Blue and SUSF Sports Scholarship holder), but I don’t know a lot of the other wrestlers particularly well,” she says. “I would be so thrilled to win a medal, but I think a top-10 finish would be amazing.”