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Rider too good to be left behind

Cyclist Stephanie McKenzie wasn’t taking ‘‘no’’ for an answer when she was initially left out of the New Zealand Commonwealth Games team. After blitzing the 500m national time trial record in Cambridge two weeks ago, she was just too good to refuse. The former Glen Eden resident is now on her way to Glasgow with a point to prove as the only female sprinter on the team. McKenzie moved to Invercargill in 2011 to focus on her cycling and relocated north to Cambridge this year after the Avantidrome was built. She won four national titles in March and sprinted for the unofficial time of 34.91sec in the 500m race in her new home town, catapulting her into the Commonwealth Games. ‘‘I’ve always looked up to Anna Meares from Australia,’’ the 21-year-old says. ‘‘But now she’s my competition so I need to shift my focus from looking up to her, to trying to beat her.’’ McKenzie has had to work twice as hard to reach the next level, being diagnosed with type-1 diabetes when she was 8 years old. ‘‘I only remember going to the doctors with mum and was told I needed to go to the hospital. ‘‘At first I thought it was cool because I’d never been before. ‘‘I was in there for a week and the food was horrible. ‘‘Being a diabetic, it’s like your whole family becomes diabetic. ‘‘Mum was getting up in the middle of the night to do all the testing and monitoring.’’ But that didn’t stop McKenzie living a normal life – the Glen Eden Intermediate student was well involved in competitive gymnastics. She had a change in focus after breaking her ankle. ‘‘I’m always one for firsts in my family, first with type1 diabetes and first to break a bone,’’ McKenzie says. ‘‘An osteopath in Titirangi recommended I take up cycling because I had the physique for it. ‘‘I hadn’t ridden a bike since my Weet-Bix Tryathlon days. ‘‘But I found cycling was more fun as gymnastics was more demanding on the body.’’ McKenzie won the Don Oliver Youth Sport Foundation’s gold award in 2010 and scooped four medals at the two UCI Junior Track World Championship events that followed. She uses an insulin pump before, during and after training and works with a dietician and nutritionist to keep her body right. Keeping her weight down is one of the biggest challenges, she says. ‘‘Track sprinting is short so I’m lucky. ‘‘I’ve learned to be more proactive than just reactive. ‘‘The less insulin in my body, the better it is for my weight management.’’ McKenzie’s parents still live in Glen Eden and she’s hinted at a short return if her schedule allows after training in Adelaide later this month. ❚ Nominations are still open for the 2014 Don Oliver Youth Sport Awards. Entries close June 30.

Article from Western Leader June 6th 2014 by Julian Raethel

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