Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Olympic Camp #2 (part 2)

The second half of our Olympic Camp in Canberra, had us hosting the Japanese National Team for some training games. While the Japanese are not highly ranked in the water polo world, they displayed some refreshing attributes. The Japanese goal is ultimately to prepare for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. We went in knowing that they weren’t going to be the strongest competitors that we were going to come up against, but they were going to be fast.

The combination of altitude and only playing with 9 players, meant there was going to be plenty of game time and we were definitely going to be feeling the effects. What I didn’t expect was the Japanese girls attitude. They not only trained their hearts out, but showed up to every game ready to play (even though most games had about 10-15 goal difference) and came out firing every quarter of every game.
Photo thanks to AIS Facebook Page

With the camp reaching it’s final days there was anticipation in the air. Selection was up for grabs on the upcoming tour to Montenegro, Brazil and USA. Which meant the very important step of checking out some of the sites in Rio, as well as some of the venues. Getting the lay of the land is helpful in our preparation for the Games as you can start some visualisation training, plus if we can fit in some site seeing while we are there, means no distraction while competing at the Games… especially with family and friends all having a great holiday while you’re stuck in the most intense and pressure filled experience of your sporting career (seems fair).

Photo thanks to AIS Facebook Page
While it is not the be all and end all if you miss out on this tour, it is however, an indication of where you are currently positioned in the team. We will take 15 away out of the 19 players currently involved.  As the days continue to count down, the stress and pressure for selection continue to build as we head into the holiday season. As they say, no rest for the wicked…. 

 To see who made the cut, check out Water Polo Australia

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Olympic Camp #2: AIS Altitude House

Altitude House Colouring Time
There is less then 300 days until the Rio Olympics get under way and the Aussie Stingers and I are hitting new heights (literally).  After a quick week at home we travelled to the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra for our second Olympic Camp. Here we have 12 out of 19 girls staying in the Altitude House, which is set to simulate living at 2,500m above sea level. Who would have thought that at 29 years of age I would be sleeping in a bunk bed in a windowless room for a minimum of 14 hours a day… What kind of hell is this? The low oxygen environment makes climbing the single flight of stairs to the apartment feel like a 2-hour fitness session. To say that these 3 weeks are going to be tough is a massive understatement.

Recovery Time with Massage Chairs and Moon Boots
We have 19 girls vying for only 13 positions and things are getting interesting. The first week of camp had us run though our paces with swim and strength testing. This definitely made for a hard first week. Camps based in Canberra have some great advantages, such as we have the ability to train at the times we want (no 5am starts!), we have access to the recovery centre (ice baths, massage chairs and moon boots galore), plus all our support staff are on site, doctors, nutritionists, physiotherapists, massage therapists, physiologists and psychologists are all easily accessed to help ensure that both our bodies and minds remain in tiptop shape and are prepared to embark into one of the hardest and most challenging training period of our Olympic preparation.

The second half of this camp we will be hosting the Japanese team for some training games. While it’s all well and good to train against each other it is nothing compared to training against another team. Having opposition to train against allows us to work on any and all combinations within the team. This will give all athletes the opportunity to make some important steps into cementing their position in the team. Consistency will be a key attribute needed over the next 10 months as the girls will be fighting for a place in the team every day and at every session.
Escaping the AIS for a Sunday Team Lunch

Till next time!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Olympic Camp 1: Sydney

It is easy for people to miss all the elements that go into building an elite athlete and an elite team. Four years are spent focused solely on a single goal that when all is said and done comes down to two weeks of the biggest emotional and physical roller-coaster ride you can ever experience. It’s less than a year out from the Rio Olympic Games and we are getting down to the business end of things.

Our first Aussie Stingers Olympic Camp was held over two weeks in Sydney. We were based out at Sydney Olympic Park in Homebush. It was here that I saw my first ever senior women’s water polo game when the girls won the Gold at the 2000 Games and one of the reasons why I got into water polo in the first place. It was great to get a reminder of what and why I have spent all these hours, days and years working towards. It can be easy to forgot where it all started and get bogged down it all the hardships and obstacles that can get in your way.

After a disappointing forth finish at the recent World Championships we have a lot of work ahead of us both in and out of the water. While we first week started off relatively moderate in the water, due to everyone coming back off a break. The second week kicked up gears in the pool and out, with plenty of meetings to discuss our plan and the processes we hope to implement to enable us to play at our absolute best individually and as a team.

We have a great bunch of girls involved in this preparation process, which will be important in the coming months. Living in each other’s pockets for the next 10 months will be one of the tests the team will have to face. The honesty and respect that we have for one another will endeavour to help us wade through the minefield that is team sports.

With the first camp done and dusted we are home for a week and then it’s right back into the thick of it with a three week camp at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. 


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Heart Break and the Road Ahead

The second week of the World Championships was a mix bag. We were lucky to scrape through the quarter finals against China. China are a team we have played numerous of times over the years and have also met them in the Beijing and London Olympic Quarter Finals. On all occasions we have come away with the win, seeing both London and the World Champs quarters end in penalty shootouts.

Penalty shootouts are very emotionally charged. Unfortunately it comes down to individual brilliance or an individual’s mistake. It’s just you and the opposition out in the middle of the pool. It can either be eerily quite or deafeningly loud. When a team games gets whittled down to a loss or win on a single individual it can seem outrageously unfair. A player may have had the best game of there life and an inch too wide, too narrow, too high or too low can see that player lose the game for the team.  

After surviving the quarter we were set to meet the USA in the semi. While a tough game, poor attacking options left us lacking in the second half. After facing a disappointing result, our job was not over. The bronze medal match vs Italy was still looming. Our final match started off quite well, although we missed some early opportunities. After trading goals with the Italians for the entire game, the final hooter sounded and the scores we even. Another penalty shootout… This time we were not so lucky and unfortunately did not come up with the win. This saw us come away from the Championships with forth, far from what we were hoping for ourselves.

So it’s back to the drawing board to both review and develop our team so we can head into the 2016 Rio Olympics in the best possible form we can be, ready to fight for the elusive gold medal.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

The Good, The Bad and The Brave

It's been a tough week here in Kazan, Russia. The 16th Fina World Championships have got under way and the Aussie Stingers are primed and ready to go. 

The first week saw us off to a less than perfect start with a close win against Greece (8-7).  This was the first game our team finally played together, due to a rocky preparation plagued by injuries and sickness. After a good first quarter, we made some critical errors that kept the game close. In the end we were able to hold on and get away with the win.

Our second game vs South Africa (19-1) was a much better game by fair. Although the opposition is admittedly not as strong. Our combinations and communication seemed like it was finally on the same page and working in time.

Our third and final round game was our most important as it was the decider between who would be placed first and who would be second in our pool. Which heading into the second week and knockout rounds of the World Championships can be very important. Plus the added bonus of a direct route to the quarter finals if you're placed first.

On a more personal note this game was set to be my 300th international game for the Aussie Stingers. Phew! Time seems to have flown, I still remember my very first international game.... 10 years ago I played my first game during a test series vs New Zealand in Canberra to decide the last 3 positions to complete the senior team set to compete at World League and ultimately the World Championships in Montreal in 2005. And as they say the rest is history.

Our Netherlands game (8-6) was always going to be tough. We were able to keep the usually high scoring Dutch team to 6 goals, all of which were from extra man. A great effort from the girls.

With our round games done and dusted we get a guaranteed quarter final birth and have 3 days before our next game. As we prepare for our next game we have a  few hard training sessions and start to knuckle down on our game plan.

The second week of world champs can bring about anything. Teams can crumble and teams can rise. Luck will favour the brave. 

Full Game Reports on both Aussie Stingers and Sharks Plus much much more can be found at Water Polo Australia


Sunday, 28 June 2015

Guts, Determination and That Lactic Burn.

Silver Medallist, World League Super Finals
One of my favourite aspects of competitive sport is that it has the ability to test and reveal a person character. And it doesn’t only test you once, it pushes and prods and continuously throws down testing your limits. On our recent trip to China I would have to say that it was one of the most gruelling tests I have been through over the last few years. Not to say that we have been taking things easy, but this particular tour really sort to push us to our breaking points.

We were in China for three weeks, the first being a heavy training load week, the second a preparation tournament (Kunshan Cup) and finishing off the tour with the Fina World League Super Finals. Each game bought about new challenges, being that this was the first time most of the squad was together and the first step towards making the World Championship team to compete in Kazan in July 24th to August 9th, not to mention that Olympic Squad selection is just around the corner in September.  

For each game we went in with the mindset that it needed to be better than the game before. Each time we hit the water we wanted to be making improvements. Now these improvements didn’t need to be something out of this world. We just wanted to make the best of every opportunity we had been given to make the important steps towards bringing our best to the World Championships.

The Fina World League Super Finals saw us playing under strength and under manned. With a few girls coming down with sickness and others carrying injuries we went into the semi final and grand final 2 players down. Playing a game with 9 field players, while not ideal is still possible. Both the semi and final were very heavy games and required all players to dig deep and give absolutely everything in the tank. While the first quarter of the gold medal match admittedly was a long way from our best. The pure guts, determination and down right never give up attitude saw players pull out all stops, seeing us score 6 goals to 2 over the final three quarters.

Swimming through the burn of lactic acid as it fills your arms and shoulders, unable to get a full breath of air, legs like cement and your mind starts to divert to how bad you are feeling instead of concentrating on the game plan. To be able to overcome these and refocus your mind of what you have to do and push through everything to get yourself up and down the pool with someone either on top of you, holding you back or chasing that person down is not an easy task.

I was both proud and humbled with the effort that all the players put in to those two final games. Leaving China after 3 tough weeks with one Bronze Medal (Kunshan Cup) and one Silver Medal (Fina World League Super Finals) is not something to sneeze at. While we have quite a lot of work to do before the World Championships, I'm excited to see what the girls and myself will be able to achieve when we take on the rest of the World at the Fina World Championships in Kazan.

Monday, 4 May 2015

When One Door Closes

Supporting International Guide Dog Day
After a long hibernation it's time to start getting the wheels of the cyber sphere to start turning again. So what's been happening?

Quick recap: Over the past two years, I have graduated with a Bachelor of Biomedical Science, as well as completing my Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health, majoring in Emergency and Disaster. I finished up work at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. I went on a 13 week European and UK adventure (such fun!). Signed up to play professionally for a club in Athens, Greece. I had surgery on my elbow to remove a bone fragment. I relocated to Sydney for the time being. I started and almost finished a new work contract with NSW Health at Prince of Wales Hospital in Blood Bank. And finally at the end of this month I will be taking up a nomadic lifestyle and be moving from place to place over the next 15 months or so for training and competitions in preparation for 2016 Rio Olympics.

As the 2015 National league season winds down, preparations for 2015 Fina World Championships start to really ramp up. The next couple of weeks will be filled with trying to get my life all organised before heading overseas for our World Champ campaign. First off, removalist and storage... in hopes of keeping costs down over the next 15 months, I will be foregoing rent and become reliant on the kindness of friends and family to put me up the times I am actually in town, which let's face will be very limited. But this means that once my lease is up at the end of the month I will be packing most of my possessions into storage till post Olympics.
Thanks to Chatswood Toyota For hosting us!

There are no words to describe how much I dislike moving. Packing, labelling, cleaning, it's a never ending cycle, especially when the items in question are heading into long term storage. One does not want their worldly possession to be covered in mildew and mold. So soon it will be another round of packing everything up and shipping it out for safe keeping.

But it's not all bubble wrap and newspaper on the horizon, this Friday will see out first outfitting of potential Rio Olympians getting sized up for uniform. Which always has a little element of excitement surrounding it. It can be a lengthy process of putting on clothes, taking them off and putting more clothes on, and for those who aren't a fan of long shopping trips this may be a new kind of hell. There is also, however, a little burst of excitement and nerves that remind you that the Games are just around the corner and you're running out of time to prepare for what is to come. Numerous rounds of selection tournaments and camps, some of the most intense training session that will not only test you physically, but also mentally are all just around the corner. The count down has well and truly begun.

Rainbow chasing