Underwater hockey gold for Otago uni student

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A University of Otago student is a gold medal winning underwater hockey player.

Eli Campbell-Stokes, of Wellington, was part of the New Zealand under-19 men’s team that won the age group world championships in Sheffield last month.

The team defeated Great Britain 8-2 in the final, after beating them twice in a round robin earlier in the tournament.

Campbell-Stokes said although his team won by a big margin, the victory was still sweet.

“I think you kind of expect such a convincing margin to not feel as good as a tighter game, but the way that the game played out it meant that we still had to fight for it quite a bit.”

New Zealand was up 5-0 at half time, but Great Britain fought back early in the second half and scored two quick goals.

New Zealand then scored three unanswered goals to take the win.

“To go out in that fashion was really good and just made the victory really sweet.”

The team was in a grade with six other teams and played a double round robin over six days – two games a day.

After the round robin, New Zealand was seeded first so did not have to play in the quarter-finals.

Its next game was the semi-final against Spain, which it won 3-2, to secure its finals spot.

Campbell-Stokes said having beaten Great Britain before the final gave the team confidence and they knew what they had to do to win.

“We kind of always know that GB and France are going to be relatively strong, but South Africa and Spain were a bit more of a surprise.”

Although gold was the aim and New Zealand was a strong side, it was not until about halfway through the tournament it started to sink in that they could win, he said.

The team was selected from a training camp earlier in the year.

Campbell-Stokes said it was a relief to be selected, after previously missing out.

“I was pretty stoked.

“I knew I was right on the margin of being selected or not so it was really good to have impressed enough to be the selection.

“But, at the same time, I knew what the other boys who didn’t make it were going through, having not been selected the year before.”

One of the big challenges of the sport was holding your breath.

That was one thing he had been working to improve, especially since they played in a 3m pool in Sheffield compared with the 2m ones in New Zealand.

Now that he is back in Dunedin, the first-year health science student is focusing on catching up with his studies.