As the southern hemisphere shivered through a wet and miserable August winter, a bunch of young Australian and New Zealanders set their mark on the world in scorching conditions at the 2010 UCI World Junior Track Championships in Montichiari, Italy. In amongst this talented group of Australasians, a young sprinter from Waitakere in New Zealand quietly created history by claiming a silver medal in the team sprint. Seventeen year old Steph McKenzie not only represented her country as a first year U19 rider, she represented all of us. Here is her story.
Stephanie McKenzie, 17, Track Cyclist.
I have been diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic since 2001, aged 8. I first used syringes to keep my sugars level, but I moved onto an insulin pump during 2006 and haven’t looked backed since. It works wonders and is ideal for the amount of exercise I do.
I started my sporting career as a gymnast at my Local club, Waitakere Gymnastics and then later on moved to Counties Manukau, which was an hour drive from my house (which seemed super long when I was little). In 2006 I thought gymnastics was getting a bit too much, after 6 years and a number of serious injuries and visiting the local osteopath nearly every weekend. I moved onto Track cycling. I did miss gymnastics a little bit; it was definitely a good background sport to lead onto any other sport.
Now, I am a first year Under 19 rider. I was fortunate to be selected for the 2010 New Zealand Junior Track Worlds Champs team. It was such an honor to be able to wear that New Zealand fern, and it was such an awesome experience to have gone to Italy for my first big international race. There were 11 riders, 6 boys and 5 girls ranging from Auckland to Invercargill.
Making the team was definitely a short term goal and medaling at the Championships was also a goal that I wanted to achieve. Being first year and making the top 10 for every event I was in was also quite cool when I think about it.
We started our journey on the 20th of July and after a couple days of flying we arrived in Milan, Italy. We then headed towards our final destination, Montichiari, a small town about a 2 hour drive from Milan. It was super hot as we left and really bright, the heat was already getting the better of us and having no air conditioning in the van wasn’t the best. Once we were off all the windows were down and it was all dandy!
We finally arrived to Montichiari and started to settle in for the one month ahead of us. Three of those weeks were to acclimatise, train and to get used to the track. After a week we all got a rest day and decided to make a day trip across to Verona, which was about a 45 minute train ride. It did involve a fair bit of walking but it was worth it. We were there for most of the day doing a lot of window shopping and not much sight seeing.
Going from New Zealand’s winter to Europe’s summer was quite hard because the heat made you feel very light headed and it was the same feeling you would get when your blood sugars were low. I found it very difficult to keep my blood sugars under control - sometimes they were crazy high (25mmol/L +) which didn’t help training. When we were doing our road rides I felt like I was always low and had no energy so I had to stop and get a coke, but in the end it was just because of the heat. It took just over a week to get them under control; also the Italian diet is a lot of pasta which didn’t help my sugars at all!
After the three hard weeks of training were up, everyone started to get nervous and began to put their mind into ‘race mode’. Some reacted differently to others towards racing. I quite like my personal space so ended up watching a lot of movies to keep my mind off racing. I had a lot of racing ahead of me: I raced every day and nearly every session. My first event was the 500m time trial and I was first up on the start list which I thought was pretty cool. I ended up 7th out of 24 riders with a time of 36.531s. I then had the Team Sprint the next day with my fellow team mate Henrietta Mitchell. We qualified second with 35.963s and were in the finals against the Russians. We wanted to go faster and I'm sure they wanted to as well, but they held their position and went .100s faster than in qualifying and we also went faster 35.708s which got us the silver medal.
The next few days were the sprints I qualified 5th with a 12.957s for the flying 200m time trial. After a couple of days racing I made the finals, racing for the bronze which was so close. I won the first race and Holly Williams of Australia won the second race. We had to go for the 3rd and final race to decide, she just beat me so I had to settle in for 4th. Last day of racing finally came round and it was the Keirin which I ended up 9th.
Lining up for the sprint finals Team Sprint
All photos courtesy Steph McKenzie.
Throughout the week of racing overall my sugars were very good, I did have a few high readings in between races but controlled them without stressing too much. With the amount of adrenaline rushing through me my sugars tend to go high, so to stop this happening I test a lot before and after racing to see what they are doing. For racing I take my insulin pump off, because my races aren’t too long I can afford to take it off just as I put my skinsuit on and race. I must remember to put it back on straight after racing because they will go extremely high as they did on one occasion. When my sugars go low I normally use lucozzade which brings my sugars up nice and fast. I took a couple of bottles over with me just in case they didn’t have it and I was lucky that I did because they only seemed to have powerade and gadorade which both are good but don’t work as quickly for me as lucozzade.
It was a mad rush to pack up the bikes as we had to leave at 530 the next morning. We all got woken up with a big knock on our doors by our Team Manager, Mike McRedmond at 430am, had breakie then hit the road to start our long journey back home to arrive on the 18th.
After experiencing my first Junior Worlds and am quite pleased with the results. My goal for next years Worlds would be to medal in individual event/s, preferably to win the sprints and become a junior world champ/ title holder. For the remainder of 2010 I would like to see myself at the Oceania Track Cycling Championships held in Adelaide, Australia, and medal in all the events I do.
Current New Zealand National Titles held by Steph:
Under 19: 500m Time Trial
Current New Zealand National Records held by Steph:
Under 15: 500m Time Trial
Under 17: 500m Time Trial
200m Time Trial
Under 19: 500m Time Trial
All this track talk too confusing? Check out the track cycling wiki and follow the links to the sprint events for more detailed explanations.