Un­der­wa­ter star tak­ing a break

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - By KRIS DANDO

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.

Photo: JIM CHIPP

For Emma Sy­monds, 2015 is more

about study­ing than un­der­wa­ter hockey.

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