Queenstown shooting star shrugs off illness

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A top-ranked Queenstown rifle shooter is shrugging off illness to represent New Zealand in an international competition in Sydney.

Jenna MacKenzie, 21, the country’s top woman smallbore shooter for several years, says her preparation’s been hampered by glandular fever during the past two weeks.

“I’ve just been sleeping on the couch, that’s all I’ve done. I’ve just had no strength to do anything, I can’t even lift much.”

MacKenzie, however, says her illness won’t stop her taking aim alongside mainly Australian and NZ competitors in the six-day Oceania Shooting Federation’s Continental Championship, starting Saturday.

The championship is important for MacKenzie as she targets two big events next year. 

In July there’s the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, which she’s virtually guaranteed selection for. In September she’s off to Spain for the four-yearly world championships.

The Glasgow Games will be special, she says: “I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland – it’s kind of home country, being a MacKenzie girl.”

The Commonwealth Games would also help make up for her disappointment at missing the London Olympics last year.

MacKenzie earned a quota spot then spent two-and-a-half months in Europe trying to qualify only to miss out by four points.

That was her last major overseas competition before this Oceania event.

MacKenzie’s competed internationally since 2009, initially as a junior, and holds many national titles and records in the 10 metre air rifle and 50m .22 prone, kneeling and standing competitions.

However, apart from a few grants she gets no funding and has to rely heavily on her parents’ financial support.

Just to train she has to drive to Timaru to visit her coach Jock Allen about 12 times a year, which costs about $300 a pop.

MacKenzie says NZ also lacks any decent-size rifle ranges.

“We need like a $1 million range but there’s no funding – we’re not a publicised sport.”

MacKenzie competes against men within NZ because not many women compete.

“We have a junior NZ squad which I went through but when people get out after two years there’s nothing to fall into, not even a coach.”

Mackenzie, who shifted to Queenstown from Southland two years ago, got into shooting at an indoor range at Mossburn at the age of 15.

Asked what her strengths are, she says: “I have the patience for it, and the skill.

“There’s a lot of natural talent I’ve been lucky to have, and I’ve had the background to help me through,” MacKenzie says.