Tale of two cities for young water polo rep

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A Columba College pupil has been splitting her time between Dunedin and Christchurch to play the sport she loves.

Sophie Gaudin (17) is a member of the Canterbury under-18 girls’ water polo team, which is set to compete in the national championships in October.

The team played in the Pan Pacific Youth Water Polo Festival, the largest water polo event in the southern hemisphere, last month and finished 13th in its grade – the highest-placed South Island team.

Sophie said that was a good result for the team, especially as the team’s pool was full of strong teams.

The team is coached by New Zealand women’s team captain Alexandra Boyd, who Sophie said was one of the best coaches she had had.

“She understands what’s going on in the game.”

Sophie started playing water polo in year 7, after playing flipper ball at primary school.

“I have kind of been living in the water my whole life.”

She represented Otago at under-16 level, but there were not enough to field an under-18 team this year so she reached out to Canterbury Water Polo to ask if she could trial.

She got dispensation from the Otago Water Polo Club and was named in the Canterbury team.

Last term, she travelled to Christchurch most weekends to train with the team.

She was billeted with team members, which was a great way to get to know them, she said.

The team did water-based training on Saturday nights, such as swimming, game play and skills, and fitness classes on Sunday mornings.

Sophie said the high-intensity interval classes, and running, were a great way to keep her fitness up.

“I find that running really helps for the endurance.”

Games were split into five-minute quarters, with a 30-second shot clock so the ball was often going from end to end quickly, she said.

“It’s a lot of moving.”

The sport was relatively small in Dunedin, especially compared with Auckland.

“In Auckland, almost every school has a team and there are heaps of clubs.

“Auckland is a whole other calibre. They are very good.”

There were more teams in the city than in the whole of the South Island and Wellington combined, she said.

The Otago Water Polo Club sent three teams to the Pan Pacific Championships: under-14 girls, under-16 girls and under-18 boys. Fellow Otago club member Maia Aoake played for a Waitakere team.