'Kiwi Katniss' shoots for Japan
An archer known as the "Kiwi Katniss" is flying towards her dream of representing New Zealand at the 2020 Olympic Games.
Rachel Burge, who got her nickname from the main character of The Hunger Games books and movie trilogy, first picked up a bow and arrow about three years ago after trying archery on a trip to England.
The determined 18-year-old has been shooting for gold ever since, and has accepted an offer of a four-year scholarship to study at Emmanuel College in Georgia, United States. Her first semester starts in August, when she'll begin a bachelor of science, majoring in sports management.
To top it off, she'll also be able to learn from and train with elite US archers and Olympic-level coaches.
The plan for the former Papakura High School student is to learn as much as she can and then represent New Zealand at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo before bringing her expertise back to the country.
"I'm nervous about it obviously because I'm going to be half-way across the world but the Olympics has always been my goal so I will do whatever it takes to get there," she says.
The US$20,000 scholarship only covers course-related costs so Burge has been fundraising for at least another $3000 to help with living expenses as she settles in. As well as receiving donations from family, friends and the archery community, Burge has been saving as much as she can from her two jobs as a receptionist and web developer.
She's also studying a personal management course fulltime and training almost every day, a juggling act she's very familiar with.
Burge left school when she was 16 but returned last year to finish her NCEA Levels 2 and 3 within six months, all the while working part-time and training.
"I just knew what I wanted and I worked. I worked weekends and evenings and trained as much as I could. I used to get up at 6am to train before school."
Burge trains at the Auckland Archery Club but learns from Canterbury coach Petra Baker and elite US coach Laval Dee Falks, who instructs her through Skype.
Learning over the internet adds another element of difficulty to a technically demanding sport but Burge says she enjoys the challenge.
"It's just the exhilaration of getting your personal best. You can always pit yourself against yourself.
"I'm always striving to get a personal best and not just to win [competitions]," she says.
"Ever since I picked up my bow it's just been my life."
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