Star waterpolo player helps Team SA to victory

KEAGAN MITCHELL

A former Pinelands North Primary School pupil, Sydney made the side following trials in Johannesburg, in December.

She was also a member of the squad that whitewashed Zimbabwe 3-0 in a three-match test series in March.

Although not an EU-member country, South Africa was invited to take part and were drawn in Group A alongside Switzerland, Ireland and Czech Republic. They got their campaign off to the best possible start beating Switzerland 32-2. They continued where they left off beating Ireland 21-1. Their final pool game was to decide who topped the group after South Africa and Czech Republic won their opening games.

What made this match even more highly anticipated was the fact the Czechs beat SA on penalties, in the same competition, last year. The SA team got their revenge this time around, winning 19-6.

They faced England in the semi-finals, coming away from a 16-3 victory to set up a date in the final with Czech Republic and beating them by the same margin to clinch the title.

Sydney, from Thornton, scored three goals during the tourney, saying it was exciting to play alongside 12 other fantastic athletes.“The team dynamic worked so well and we kept it competitive even when we were ahead. I appreciated being part of that team because we gelled like a well-oiled machine.

“When we stood up to sing the national anthem, a sense of realisation that I was representing my country and pride rushed through me. It was satisfying in a way I couldn’t put into words and it gave me so much drive to play hard and leave my heart in that pool,” she said.

Although referring to the northern hemisphere weather conditions, as an “unfamiliar coldness that froze your ears and the tip of your nose,” Sydney she said she enjoyed the Danish culture.

“We were girls that are a similar age from different countries, all with the same goal in mind. At breakfast, for instance, the room would be filled with these girls chatting away in different accents and languages.

Introduced to the sport in 2010, Sydney credits her former primary school coach Kristi Jooste as the one who taught her the basics of the game.“I swam in primary school and enjoyed water sports. In Grade 5, my teacher introduced me to water polo, but the sport was, at the time, only for Grade 6 and 7 pupils. All I wanted to do was get to Grade 6 and see what this sport was about. Once I knew more about the sport, I soon realised that this was what I wanted to do,” she said.

The youngster has made the Western Province water polo side every year since 2013. But she’s not just good in the water, she also led the WP under-16A hockey side to third place, at the inter-provincial tournament, in Stellenbosch, last year.

Team SA’s under-17 waterpolo manager Hayley Yon said her side’s finishing, strength, speed and shot accuracy played a vital role in clinching the tournament. “From the start we were determined to win and with their team spirit as high as it was, we did just that. We came into the competition with the right approach and it paid off at the end of the day,” she said.