Irene van Dyk: Perfection with a smile
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On July 5, 2004, Irene Van Dyk took to the court as the third quarter of the third netball test between New Zealand and Australia began.
She shot 24 goals from 24 attempts to turn the match around and win the game for the Silver Ferns.
Her signature grin was wide that night.
The sharp-shooter last week announced her retirement from international netball at age 41, having enjoyed a record-breaking career.
Van Dyk played a record 217 tests between 1994 and 2013. She represented South Africa 72 times between 1994 and 1999, before moving to New Zealand and representing the Silver Ferns 145 times.
She first became a household name in 1995 when she helped South Africa upset New Zealand in the semi-finals of the World Championships.
In 2000 she made her debut for New Zealand and established a new record for most international caps.
She was in the 2003 World Championships-winning team and was named New Zealand sportswoman of the year after being the top shooter at the tournament.
New Zealand hadn't won the title since 1987 and haven't recaptured it since 2003.
She won Commonwealth Games gold medals in 2006 and 2010, and in 2010 was selected to lead the New Zealand team in the Opening Ceremony.
In 2009, Van Dyk was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for her services to netball.
But putting the ball in the hoop is what van Dyk does best, and her precision is remarkable.
In her international career she shot 5917 goals from 6572 attempts, a 90 per cent average success rate. For the Silver Ferns she was even better than her overall average, shooting 4796 goals from 5288 attempts for a 91 per cent shooting average.
In the ANZ Championships Van Dyk has been the top percentage shooter in every season, and will play on until the end of 2015. In 2012 she scored more goals than anyone else as the Bay of Plenty Magic became the first and only New Zealand franchise to win the competition.
Her career numbers are staggering.
2009: 463/495 (93.5%)
2010: 554/593 (93.4%)
2011: 446/485 (92%)
2012: 501/527 (95.1%)
2013: 425/445 (95.1%)
2014: 354/392 (90.3%)
And her 2014 season is still going.
Irene van Dyk is a perfectionist who at the start of her career was criticised for a lack of mobility in the circle. She worked on that and became a dynamic goal shot, capable of hitting the long shot but also a master at positioning herself under the hoop.
The best thing about van Dyk, though, was her infectious smile and bubbly personality. I'm not a huge netball fan, but van Dyk made you want to watch the game because she was so happy and because she was so good at it.
Usually those with the dead-eye accuracy don't smile much, but Irene van Dyk smiled often. And so she should. She is a legendary sportswoman.
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