Ranked 2nd in Australia in javelin, rising star Mackenzie Little shows nothing but promise in this year’s Commonwealth Games. Having set a new personal best only months before the games, this up-and-coming athlete is in top form to take on Birmingham with her sights already set on the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
ON TRACK FOR THE GAMES
Joining the ranks of the SUSF Elite Athlete Program, she started the 2020-2021 season strong with a personal best of 61.42m, the sixth-best throw in Australian history, helping to secure her place at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. There she nailed a 62.37m throw in the heat, locking her into the final. She placed a commendable 8th overall and immediately set her sights on Birmingham 2022.
“Sydney University has a prolific athletics club and I’m thrilled to be joining the ranks of some really talented athletes here. They have been so welcoming to me and clearly run a well-oiled machine,” Mackenzie says.
In Mackenzie’s next season, she won the Australian Open women’s javelin with a throw of 62.09m, seconded by Alexandra Roberts with 55.61 m and Toria Peeters with 52.62m. That throw helped her selection for the Games.“I’m really proud to be a member of the SUAC, the oldest and strongest club in the country.”
THE CURVEBALL OF DESTINY
It was a fated rainy day that would change Mackenzie’s sporting career forever. Already hooked on athletics, as a junior competing in Little Athletes across hurdles, high jump, long jump and heptathlon, a sudden change in weather prompted the delay of several events. Little switched to javelin that day and immediately found her niche.
She was then scouted after she won gold at the 2013 World Youth (Under 18) Championships at Donetsk in Ukraine where Mackenzie shocked everyone, including herself when her PB jumped by 4 metres. She claimed the title with a record throw of 61.47m with the 500- gram implement (Open competitions use a 600-gram javelin). Her coach Annabel Davies, and her family flew out to Donetsk to support her.
WORK HARD, PLAY HARD MENTALITY
Following her success, Mackenzie qualified for the 2014 World Juniors in Oregon, US. She was unable to attend as it coincided with her HSC exams.
“When I finished the HSC at PLC, I had to decide whether to start my medical studies in Australia or take up a Sporting Scholarship at Stanford University,” says Mackenzie who was on the Pymble Elite Sportswomen’s program established in 2007 to recognise the need to support students who compete at elite levels to meet academic demands. Mackenzie’s connection with Stanford University was initiated through her involvement with the Elite Sportswomen Program.
“It was an amazing opportunity to compete and study in the US, but a very tricky decision to make. It would have been quicker to get into medicine by staying in Australia as an undergraduate…in the end I decided to try Stanford for a year to see if I liked it.”
During her time studying in the US, she also enjoyed a stellar sporting career competing for the University, which included four consecutive Pac-12 women’s javelin titles, the last of which came after midnight following a lightning-delayed competition in Tucson when she set a meet record of 59.13m.
The Pac12 conference meets are a progression to regional championships in US west and east coasts, which lead to qualification for the Nationals.
Little went to four NCAAs, winning the last two she attended and set the bar as Stamford’s first and only women’s NCAA javelin winner.
JACK OF ALL TRADES
Mackenzie takes the term ‘career athlete’ to a whole new level, continually progressing her goals in javelin, while also studying a Doctor of Medicine degree at USYD.
Now in the third year of her medical degree, she is spending one day each week at Royal North Shore Hospital. She is eager to progress her javelin career in tandem with her medical studies with the aid of SUSF’s Elite Athlete Program and a sporting scholarship, which supports Mackenzie in navigating her demanding full-time degree with training at an elite level.
Pushing a high-momentum lifestyle, Little uses sport as a way to keep her on track in her other commitments.
“I’m definitely more productive when I’m busy,” she says. “I’ve noticed that in the periods of my life where I haven’t been exercising as much or doing as much intellectual or curricular stuff, then I’m just not as happy and energetic and productive. It’s a perfect balance because training is the perfect release from schoolwork, and I love being with my teammates and it’s a great social time as well.”
JOINING TEAM AUSTRALIA
Mackenzie was born in the US with dual citizenship, though she spent most of her childhood in Australia. Her parents, both physicians, were working at the Mayo Clinic at the time of her birth in Minnesota.
While at Stanford in 2016 she wanted to compete in the US Olympic trials but was told she was ineligible because she had represented Australia at the World Youth Championships in 2013. She threw for Australia in the World University Games later that summer, which sealed her affiliation under IAAF rules, returning her to the fold. She missed out on the Australian selection for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games that year, due to timing.
Since returning to Australia, after completing a Bachelor of Science in human biology at Stanford University, Mackenzie made her debut at the Tokyo Olympics and just off the back of winning two NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) titles competing against the top-athletes in the US.
THE BEST IS YET TO COME
With a highly-anticipated athletic career on the horizon, Mackenzie’s ultimate goal is to be selected for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, while in conjunction with her ambitions as a budding medical professional.
“I’ll be an intern then, so I’ll have to organise my time well,” she says.
We haven’t seen the last of Mackenzie Little, as we witness her athletic career grow before our eyes.