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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado - Mackenzie Brown (Flint, Texas) has recently been touted as the "girl on fire" after taking silver at World Archery Youth Championships, gold at World Cup Medellin, making history with the U.S.'s first ever world cup stage team gold, and then winning bronze at the Rio Test Event.
Brown, a lifelong Olympic hopeful who is currently sitting in first for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, began archery in middle school and grew up through USA Archery's Junior Olympic Archery Development program. Now, she's finally getting serious results for the years of practice she's put in.
Adding Fuel to the Fire
"I've had an amazing year since I didn't make the World Championship team," shared Brown on her 4th place finish in the U.S. team trials. "I think that was the turning point for me, it put a fire in me, and I learned from failure to become a better winner."
Brown added: "Every win and every loss, there is something to be learned. If you go to a competition and win, and you don't learn from it, it doesn't mean if you do the same thing again that you'll win the same way because every competition is different. So if you take the opportunity to learn something about yourself, something about your equipment, whether you win or lose, you'll become a better archer from it."
After closing the 2015 outdoor season with a 4th place finish at the World Cup Final, Brown concluded: "It fuels me because I know I've finally reached a point that I know that it's possible for me to reach my goals, and I know what it's like to go out there and be in that happy medium between relaxed and focused. It's more just knowing that I've started reaching my goal. I'm not done yet, but it's a good benchmark of where I'm supposed to be."
On Dealing with Nerves
Of course, Brown still admits she gets nervous; "I think that if I didn't feel nervous, it wouldn't be worth doing. I think if you get excited about what you're doing each time and get those butterflies, then that means that you're doing the right thing. I understand that what I'm doing is pretty out there and can be scary at some points, but I've never questioned my goals. I've always set them and then been hardheaded and dead on to what I'm supposed to do. I keep my morals, who I am as a person, and yet still become a better person through achievement."
As a tip for archers who struggle to control nerves at a tournament, Brown suggests: "a little bit of nerves is a good thing, you can use it to help fuel your competition and it's exciting, but if it gets to be too much, do breathing exercises. In between ends when I'm walking to and from the target, I take deep breaths for five seconds. You breathe in through your nose for five slow seconds and then count slowly and breathe out through your mouth for five seconds. It works!"
Staying Grounded and Having Fun at Tournaments
Brown's recent successes on the international stage have propelled her to a No 3 world ranking. In a bracket historically dominated by the women of Korea, Brown is shaking things up. She is not too intimidated: "The Koreans are inspiring, they add fuel to the fire - but I'm training to be better than they are. I am starting to see how they work and some things I might do better than they do, and that's the goal is to go out and be the best me I can be."
"At competitions on the field, you see the Koreans and they're in their groups, and they're so serious," shared Brown, "But each year in Turkey, a Korean archer gets thrown into the pool fully clothed. It's really cool to see them interact as normal people because it's like well they are just like us, so I can beat them. This past year, Choi Misun got thrown in first."
Brown added that archers from other countries often stay at the same hotels when competing internationally, and always find a way to have fun and relax off the field: "This year in China we played Phase 10 for hours with archers from Canada, Australia, and Sjef van den Berg from the Netherlands."
She shared: "I think people don't know how normal we are, that we like to go do fun things, and express ourselves, and be comfortable. Part of the reason we do well on the competition field is being able to separate those things; having time to play and be a kid, and then be able to go on the field and be serious and competition ready."
Keep up with Mackenzie on the Road to Rio
Fans can follow Mackenzie on social media, including her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Brown is also a finalist for World Archery's Athlete of the Year Award - vote for her, and other U.S. finalists, Crystal Gauvin and Eric Bennett, once a day through the end of the year.
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