She’s competing against some of the best amateur boxers in the world and she knows this is where she is supposed to be.
Mckenzie Wright, from St. Davids, is preparing for the biggest competition of her career — the Pan American Games.
“Most people can only dream of this. This is crazy exciting,” said Wright.
Wright took home a bronze medal at the Pan Am qualifiers in Cali, Colombia, last month which secured her spot at the Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile.
She’ll be competing for Team Canada from Oct. 20 to Nov. 5 and will be guaranteed a spot in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games if she finishes in the top two in her division in Santiago.
Wright leaves this Friday for Bogota, Colombia, where she’ll spend three weeks with athletes from10 other countries training at an altitude of 9,000 feet.
“So we’re going there specifically for sparring and for altitude training, so that when we come back down to sea level we will actually be in the best possible shape,” she said.
Santiago is “definitely going to be an intense competition,” she said.
Even though they are representing their country abroad, Team Canada doesn’t fund any of its athletes, so it’s up to the fighters to come up with the money to cover their training and travel.
“Even now that I have qualified (for Pan Ams), there’s still zero funding for me at the national or provincial level,” she said.
Wright estimated the whole trip will cost her about $6,000.
“Luckily, my fundraiser (at the Sandtrap in July) has helped me to cover this. Otherwise, there’d be no way that I could do any of this,” she said.
She said her time competing in Cali last month was “very valuable.”
Wright drew a bye, which automatically put her through to the semifinals against Mexican fighter Ingrid Alexa Gomez Galcia in the elite women’s 48- to 50-kilogram class.
“Watching the rest of my division, I do feel that had I had a different draw or been on the other side I still feel I would have been in the finals or would have fought for a bronze medal regardless,” said Wright.
Her bout with Gomez Galcia was a good, competitive fight, she said.
“So after that fight, it sucks to lose but it does reassure me that I’m right there and I’m right at the level of the gold medallist,” she added.
Since then she’s been focused a lot on her tactical training, like footwork and distancing. She’s also been working on her mental stamina.
“One of the biggest takeaways from the last tournament is enjoying the moment more and having more fun with it,” she said.
She’s going to make sure she enjoys every minute this time around in Santiago, she said.
“This is my first major games and if you’d asked me 10 years ago if I ever thought I would be at an event like this, I would have thought no way,” she said.
“This is actually happening to me … And I’m trying to live in the moment and just embrace it.”