Young striker excited for first Olympics
A brief lockdown in Perth has young Black Sticks striker Olivia Shannon prepared for what life should be like in Japan for the Tokyo Olympics.
Shannon, 20, and the Black Sticks arrived in Tokyo at the weekend ahead of the games starting on Friday, as they prepare for their first game against Argentina on Sunday.
It is the first Olympics for Shannon, who is from rural Waituna West north of Feilding, but it will be different from the usual games due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Ahead of going to Japan, the Black Sticks had their final buildup in Australia, but it turned out to be slightly different than expected
New Zealand had played Australia in a four-match series in Palmerston North in May, then went to Perth for two more tests.
But a Covid-19 outbreak meant the Black Sticks had to spend longer in Perth than expected and were in lockdown for four days.
It meant a 10-day trip turned into three weeks, but at least they were able to play another test match.
‘‘It was nice to have some more international games under the belt before we went. We haven’t had too many. It was nice to play a few back-to-back games against them.’’
They added on a team camp due to the extended stay, which Shannon said put them in good stead for Tokyo.
They couldn’t go to the turf while in lockdown, but could go for a run in pairs.
The team were prepared though and had taken exercise equipment to work in their hotel rooms, including dribbling hockey balls.
When they returned they had safety briefings and Covid-19 testing in Auckland. Shannon said the Olympics would be a different dynamic due to Covid-19 and there was a lot to know off the turf.
‘‘I think everyone is really looking forward to [the Olympics] and are really excited for the hockey side... The team is really clear on what we have to do with the whole Covid situation.
‘‘If everyone is on the same page the hockey stuff should be easy.’’
She said the team was motivated to bring home a medal.
Shannon has made an exciting start to her international career and has looked good up front, but isn’t the only young gun in the team going to the games.
Katie Doar of Auckland and Taranaki’s Hope Ralph are also relatively new to the international game and Shannon said it was cool to have others in the team with similar levels of experience.
‘‘I think personally I’m probably starting to hit my straps a bit more as I get older, which is down to the girls in the team,’’ Shannon said.
‘‘They’re making me have a bit more confidence, understanding and clarity on the games.’’