Blond hair tied back in a high ponytail – hatchet in hand – Maddy Mathe confidently faces a wood block target.
Earlier, she watered down the wood, explaining how it helps with axe throwing.
Adorned in the black and white stripes of an official, she fires off throw after throw, sinking the axe into the wood, stepping up to purposefully pull it from the splintered target, and heading back to that line to throw again.
Some land closer to the bullseye than others.
All make her smile.
“I really like just the feeling of throwing and letting go – you throw all your power into it and go and see where it lands,” she says.
At 10, Maddy is the youngest in her Victoria axe-throwing league – the oldest in the diverse group is 72.
She discovered axe throwing while kicking around downtown with dad Brian Mathe on their customary date night just over a year ago. They spotted a sign for Axe and Grind and popped in. That night, the Victoria youth was issued a plastic axe for her first session.
“When I threw it, it felt nice, if you’re angry you can throw all that into the axe” Maddy says.
When dad and daughter returned a few weeks later, coach Ragnar Olafson offered her a suitably sized real axe instead. “I think she pretty much fell in love,” he says.
Maddy and Brian joined the league and now it’s part of their routine.
Olafson credits her dedication and focus to some impressive improvements. In her first season, Maddy had 100 drops, well over 30 per cent, and her high score was a 20. So far this season, her second, she’s had 20 drops and her high score is 45.
Her first season, she sat at 19th position of 19 players and now she’s 14th of 25.
While she’s the only kid among them, she’s treated with the same respect as any athlete in the league – Olafson wouldn’t tolerate anything else.
With urban axe throwing starting to see some growth, Olafson wouldn’t mind seeing a youth league in Victoria.
“If you want to get good and be a world champion by the time you’re 18, now’s the time to start,” he says.
Maddy highly recommends the sport. “I’ve made good friends here,” she says, everyone is kind.
Maddy and her dad credit Olafson as a mentor and leader for her growth in the sport.“Without him I wouldn’t have done it. He’s funny too,” Maddy says.
He also encouraged her interest in judging. She studied and studied and failed the first test.
Maddy buckled down and tested again.
She learned she’d achieved certification while at Axe and Grind, on National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
She was 9, and Olafson is confident she’s among the youngest officials in the World Axe Throwing League.
Having since turned 10, she’s looking at her next hurdle – knives.
“It’s harder,” Maddy admits. “Knives are really light and you stand very close when you throw them.”
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