It is rocket science!
When Kim Thompson was asked at high school to consider her career aspirations, she wrote that she’d like to be an Olympian and an astronaut. It’s not altogether surprising that such lofty ambitions seem attainable to Kim, having been raised by parents who were both Olympic kayakers; her father Alan Thompson winning two gold medals at Los Angeles in 1984.
Remarkably, Kim has made impressive progress towards both goals since high school. She is a member of the New Zealand women’s kayaking squad, and is aiming for Tokyo 2020. At the same time, she is preparing to send a nanosatellite into space, after her group of University of Auckland engineering students won the APSS CubeSat Mission Proposal. Their project aims to create an educational outreach tool to get secondary students excited about space.
“I’d love to see more girls enrol in science and engineering,” Kim says, “and see Kiwis filling the positions that are available here in organisations like Rocket Lab.”
Kim had an auspicious start to canoe racing when she was only eleven. Her father was giving Olympian Erin Taylor a coaching session in Gisborne. Kim popped into a kayak alongside her and copied what she was doing. She managed to beat her off the start too, although confesses with a chuckle, that Erin had a bucket tied to the back of her boat. Kim took up the sport more seriously the following year and like the rest of the family (her brother Quaid competes for New Zealand in the K1 1000m), never looked back.
Kim’s mother has always encouraged her to be well rounded, providing opportunities for her to try many things, leading to her passion for space. “My parents are incredibly supportive but they also understand that sport can be fleeting and isn’t the only thing in the world.”
With Kim’s study and training commitments requiring up to 80 hours per week, Kim has had to learn top-notch time management skills. “My HPSNZ Athlete Life Advisor Susan Thomason has been extremely helpful, making sure I stay on track.”
In the past, Kim says she focused more on her daily timetable. “Susan has made me look at the whole year and identify where there are crunch times.”
Now there are no surprises and Kim finds she is better prepared for any clashes that inevitably occur.
Kim also acknowledges her employer Active Engineering, where she is a mechanical engineering intern. “They are extremely supportive of my training and study schedule,” she says.
Where others might see limits, Kim sees opportunity. She knows that becoming an Olympian and an astronaut are two of the most challenging goals one could set, but remains undaunted by the challenge. Further proof of her can-do attitude is the longstanding bet she has with a friend: that she will have climbed Mount Everest before she’s 40.
Kim’s Athlete Life Advisor says Kim is proof that it’s possible to be incredibly successful at sport and at other things. “Kim is holding onto both of her dreams, showing it’s possible to have both.”
Whether it is in the field of sport, space research or mountain climbing, Kim Thompson is a name we may well hear more of in the decades ahead.