Sights set on champs

SIGHTS SET: Charlotte McKenzie will represent New Zealand at the upcoming Oceania Shooting Federation Championships in Australia.
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Charlotte McKenzie of Ashburton will don the Silver Fern as a member of the New Zealand rifle shooting team in the upcoming Oceania Shooting Federation Championships in Australia.

The 18-year-old is competing as an individual junior in the 50m prone discipline. Her 60-minute event is in Brisbane on November 5.

McKenzie is looking forward to the outdoor match against competitors up to three years her senior, many of whom have much more international experience.

“I enjoy the challenge. It’s sort of physically demanding; it’s quite hard to describe, but the level of concentration required for that amount of time it’s quite challenging,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie, who started indoor shooting in Mid Canterbury through her mum Nina’s involvement, has been a member of Canterbury Outdoor Target Shooting Club in Christchurch since 2020.

She is coached by Bryan Hunter of Ashburton who is a seasoned national shooting veteran.

He is an indoor specialist but has done a lot of (outdoor) fullbore shooting.

McKenzie has known him since she was about six-years-old.

Training in the lead up to the event has included hitting the gym for upper body strength and conditioning, indoor club shooting, work on a shooter computer aided training tool, and, as a Mid Canterbury member of the Canterbury Sports Development Academy, work with athlete lead Hayley Lee on ways to improve performance.

“Shooting a 60-shot match is a marathon in terms of concentration. You are on it (completely focused) the whole time,” mum Nina said.

“You are physically really tired at the end.”

There is also a mental readiness component too.

McKenzie said most of her mental preparedness was focused on repetition and learning how to manage her nerves.

“Most of it is just in repetition of the same habits, practicing coming up on to the target the same way, breathing the same way, squeezing the trigger, repeating it. You’ve just got to be completely relaxed.”

McKenzie has a natural ability which benefits her shooting.

McKenzie’s mum Nina said shooting was not a “hot blooded sport where there’s sometimes an advantage in pushing harder, trying harder”.

“It’s very cold, calculated, managing nerves. Don’t talk to a shooter before a match,” she said.

The Oceania team, of which the 18-year-old is a member, got together at McLeans Island range last Sunday for an outdoor training session. There are quite a few from Canterbury in the team.

She does not get fazed or overwhelmed on the mound.

It is not her first time representing New Zealand, but it is her first time travelling with the team overseas.

There is a lot of paperwork to complete to take weapons overseas. McKenzie and her mum, Nina are working through the application forms and permits.

There have also been some funding applications. Rotary Club of Ashburton have funded $850 for the team uniform.

McKenzie understands some of the pressure of competing in an international.

‘‘We had the outdoor nationals earlier in the year, it’s always in February, and I qualified for the New Zealand junior team – which was pretty cool – for the second time,” McKenzie said.

Nationals are a week-long event at the end of the shooting season and on the last day they shoot for the international Women’s Randle.

The results are then sealed until the other competing countries – Great Britain, South Africa and America – finish their seasons and complete their shoots .

The results will be known soon.

Nina said her daughter, at aged 18, was eligible for women’s and junior medals but in the Oceania Championship is competing as a New Zealand woman age group.

“It’s a steep climb for a young person to get the opportunity.”

She has got to perform against very experienced shooters such as Commonwealth Games athletes Janet Hunt and Denva Wren, and worlds competitor Shania Harrison-Lee, also of Ashburton, Nina said.

Harrison-Lee, 21, is also in the Oceania team, and selected for one of the New Zealand women’s teams. She has just returned from the worlds, and junior worlds events.

Nina said the Oceania’s were a big opportunity for her daughter who had started in the sport via the indoor discipline with Mid Canterbury Target Shooting.

Mid Canterbury is “superbly serviced” by the coaching and resources at the club, she said.

“To get to outdoor (shooting) you really have to come through indoor. It’s where you begin.

“It’s a shorter format and a lot more shooters do it because of that.

“It’s where the coaching and resources are and we are really fortunate that we have excellent coaching and a very well resourced group.”

“Charlotte could never have got to where she is without that,” Nina said. “We are really proud of her. It’s a big selection to get and she has been eyeing it.

Charlotte McKenzie is looking forward to representing New Zealand.

“The international ones have a long lead in time and this one has been a long time in the making.”

McKenzie qualified for team selection following a series of qualifying events, called designated matches, to secure her place. She shot at four of the seven designated matches available and had her best three scores considered. She found out of her inclusion in the individual category via email in late-June.

‘‘It was all a bit crazy. We’d been waiting to hear because I was in the mix, but there were a couple of people ahead of me so it was a bit of a waiting game to see who was able to go,” she said.

In the women’s junior category – for shooters who qualify under aged 21 – she will shoot one match so needs to be at her best.

It is an exciting prospect and she is happy to be included.

“I just wanted to go, really. Just be there,” she said.

Outdoor matches are 60 minutes long with a 15 minute warm up.

Each shooter draws a position on the mound under cover and shoots towards a target in open air conditions, subject to the elements such as wind, rain or dust.

Charlotte’s warm up time will allow her to line her sights and adjust to the conditions – before starting the 60 minutes to take 60 shots on a card target 50-metres away.

There will be at least eight New Zealand women competing, up to 10 Australians, as well as other participating Oceania member countries.

It may be Charlotte’s first time competing against the offshore athletes but all of the Kiwi women have competed against each other in the past; it’s a small sporting community.