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New Axe-is Of Power In Wellington As Michelle Set To Take On World’s Best

It’s 5pm on a Monday at Ventia’s Petone office and Senior Finance Administrator Michelle Mitchell is trading accounts for axes as she prepares to throw down with the world’s best at this year’s World Axe and Knife Throwing Championships to be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

From 18-21 April, Michelle and her competition partner Sarah Hilyard will compete against 137 other teams from around the world in the ‘Duals’ category, a partnered competition where both competitors throw their axe at the same target, at the same time, aiming to hit the bullseye without hitting each other’s axe.

If it sounds tricky, that’s because it is.

“You’re effectively going for half a bullseye.”

Michelle’s axe bears witness to just how difficult that can be, with knicks on the handle showing where her and her partner’s axes have failed to avoid contact.

The competition runs a double elimination system. Two losses and you’re out.

“It’s like any sport, you have good days and bad. I’m just crossing my fingers I don’t get to the World Championships and have a bad day. I’d love to see how far we can get.”

Michelle and Sarah are two of the seven-strong New Zealand team, four of whom are women – something Michelle says is quite unique to New Zealand.

“Here, there’s a pretty 50/50 split of men and women in axe throwing. At the World Championships, women probably only make up around 5 per cent of those competing.

“New Zealand really leads the way with diversity.”

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It helps, Michelle says, that axe throwing really is a sport for everyone.

“Other sports are dominated by strength, power, stamina. With axe throwing you can be old, young, throwing from a wheelchair, you could be short or tall; it basically comes down to technique and focus.”

That diversity also makes it great to watch.

“There are all sorts of techniques. Some people throw two-handed, over the head, others throw one-handed, more like a dart.”

Michelle is one of the latter and, given how comfortable she looks with an axe in hand, you’d be forgiven for thinking she’s been doing it forever.

However, she’d never really given much thought to axe throwing before moving to the Gold Coast in 2019 and looking for a way to make friends.

“I spotted an advert for axe throwing and figured anyone that would do it was probably pretty similar to me – a bit quirky – so I went along.”

She’s now been axe throwing for four and a half years, but this is her first time qualifying for the World Championships, which is largely dominated by competitors from the US and Canada.

“In America, there’s a lot more backing for the sport. Here, it’s a hobby we do in our weekends. In America, they have sponsorship to do it full-time.”

To help close the gap, Michelle has set-up a Givealittle page to help raise the money needed for travel, accommodation, visas and competition gear such as jerseys and a new axe.

Her employer, Ventia, kickstarted her fundraising with a $4,000 sponsorship toward her travel costs and Michelle says they’ve been hugely supportive, making it easy for her do whatever she needs to do to get ready, even when commitments fall during work time.

She has also received $1,000 from Capital Shuttles.

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