Underwater star taking a break
Emma Symonds won’t be lost to underwater hockey – she’s pausing just long enough to take a deep breath of air.
The Plimmerton 18-year-old is in her first year of health science studies at Otago University, coming to grips with life as a scarfie in the deep south.
The New Zealand underwater hockey representative – and young sportswoman award winner at last year’s Porirua Sports Awards – is still plying her trade in the Dunedin sports scene, but has backed off her national ambitions for now.
‘‘I am loving the environment down here, but it’s way more full on than I expected,’’ she said.
‘‘I’ve had to make a difficult choice when it comes to putting all my time into study and travelling and playing underwater hockey.
‘‘ I’ll still play in the club champs this year, but I’m taking time out when it comes to [playing for] New Zealand.
‘‘ It wasn’t an easy decision because this is the sport I’ve grown up with.’’
It means Symonds has ruled herself out of eligibility for the under-19 world championships in Spain, where New Zealand will look to defend the title they won in Hungary in 2013.
But she has an eye on the elite world championships in South Africa next year, where the New Zealand women – including Porirua’s Elle Hocking – are also defending champions.
‘‘I’ve given a lot to the sport in the past five or six years and while studying is important, I can’t turn my back on underwater hockey. As long as I keep training and playing regularly, I have a massive chance of being able to compete at that top level.’’
When the age group worlds are on in Spain in August, there won’t be a bigger cheerleader for the New Zealand teams than Symonds.
She plans to stream the games live on the internet and watch them, no matter what the time.
She said that because the Dunedin underwater hockey club scene was smaller, she had no choice but to play against men, and they don’t hold back.
‘‘It doesn’t matter that I’m a girl. I’m treated equally in the water. It’s definitely more physical and I’m coming away with a lot of bruises.’’
Symonds’ and Hocking’s big wins at the Porirua Sports Awards in November are still fresh in her mind.
Her speech was unprepared, because she did not give herself a chance of winning, but she said it was great to have their sport recognised.
For Emma Symonds, 2015 is more
about studying than underwater hockey.