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The Rock of the USA

Woolhandler and Montana rancher Leann Brimmer could well be described as the rock around which the USA team at the 40th World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships is built.

As the 40th anniversary championships started in Invercargill's ILT Stadium today it was barely 24 hours since her arrival, into which she'd already managed half a day at work in a woolshed after a journey of over 49 hours since a departure delayed by her need to stage the US National shearing and wool handling championships at the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo in Rapid City, South Dakota last week.

Joining team members including the championships' oldest competitor, 70-year-old blade shearer Kevin Ford, it's her fifth World Championships, but having worked in both New Zealand and Australia, not to mention a variety of other countries, she says she would have been in Invercargill whether she'd been in the team or not.

At the age of 42 she enjoys the work and the woolsheds more, although she is in Invercargill with some prospect of improving on her previous World Championships best of 14th at the Royal Welsh Show in 2010, five short of a place in the semi-finals.

"I don't handle the nerves well," she says. "I make a few mistakes."

One mistake she notes is in the championships' official programme which correctly records she's from Biddle, but is a little flattering on the score of population of 61. "That's 16," she points out.

The number of stops on the trip from Rapid City wasn't that many less, entailing five flights: Rapid City-Denver, Denver –Los Angeles, Los Angeles-Sydney, Sydney-Christchurch, and, after trying some sleep in a six-hour stopover interrupted by a false alarm evacuation, Christchurch-Invercargill.

She arrived at 7.30am, yesterday, and headed straight for the woolshed.

She competes for the first time tomorrow in the Southland All Nations woolhandling heats, the warm-up before the big event that leads to the deciding of six world titles in individual and teams machine shearing, blade shearing, and woolhandling, in front of a crowd of over 3000 expected for the final night on Saturday.