By Jamie Troughton
She’s taking on the best in the world but a small part of Danielle McKenzie wishes she was heading to the NZCT AIMS Games once again.
The 21-year-old McKenzie is an outstanding surf lifesaver and ironwoman, part of the New Zealand team who defended their title at last year’s world championships in France.
Today, she lined up in the first test of the International Surf Rescue Challenge on Maroochydore Beach in Queensland, against the best surf athletes from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Korea, the United States and Japan.
Some of her favorite memories in her memorable sporting career so far, however, came when she was representing Murray’s Bay at the AIMS Games in 2006 and 2007.
“The multisport was such a cool event – it was an awesome taster for my triathlon/multisport/surf lifesaving career,” McKenzie said. “I clearly remember the girls starting 2mins behind the boys and by the end of the kayak, I was beating all the boys. I hadn’t done a lot of my biking but really enjoyed the downhill at the end – it was really muddy and steep and the best way down was to go fast and not pull on the front brake!”
McKenzie won the Year 7 girls’ multisport title in 2006 and was second in the Year 8 girls’ in 2007, before combining with Nick King and Sam Blake to win the teams title. She was also named in the water polo tournament team in 2007 and, for good measure, played football in Year 7 too.
“The water polo was really important to our school and team and I remember the hype around winning, and the past Murray’s Bay Intermediate teams that had won. Our team was pretty tight and we had some awesome female players so it was pretty special to take out the title and continue the winning streak.”
McKenzie is one of a number of illustrious athletes who have passed through the AIMS Games – junior All White Alex Rufer was a star in Palmerston North Normal Intermediate’s title-winning AIMS Games squad in 2009, while world champion double sculls rower Zoe Stevenson played hockey for Tauranga Intermediate in 2004 and New Zealand women’s rugby sevens star Tyla Nathan-Wong was in the 2007 girls’ soccer tournament team, representing Blockhouse Bay.
McKenzie firmly believes the AIMS Games is the best sports tournament in New Zealand and relished the chance to compete for her school in a range of different sports.
“It’s cool to get to stay with the Year 8s and hear everyone’s achievements at the end of the day. The support and camaraderie of the school, your mates and other kids backing you during the finals is a really cool feeling and something special to be a part of.”
And her advice for athletes competing this year, when action gets underway on Sunday?
“Enjoy the moment and smash out an epic race or final. Compete hard and fast and to the best of your ability, to be the best in New Zealand. It’s a great tournament to meet new people and build new friendships in sport that will last for a lifetime. To compete with like-minded people in your favorite sport and achieve your goals with your mates is special and the memories will last.”
Hers certainly have.