Olympics a dream for Waikato hockey pair
Two Waikato hockey players will be making their Olympic debut after being named last week in the women's hockey side bound for London.
Black Sticks defender Clarissa Eshuis and striker Cat Finlayson, the only two local players in the national side, will make up part of the 16-strong Olympic team that will make the trip to England.
Eshuis, 26, is one of the longest-serving members of the Black Sticks squad, notching 122 caps since her debut in 2005, but was overlooked in selection for the 2007 Black Sticks squad, which ruled her out of the Beijing hosted Olympics in 2008.
London will be the first time Eshuis will represent New Zealand in an Olympic campaign and the announcement last week was an emotional experience.
"It's pretty special," she said. "I've trained for a couple of years now and it's finally the reward that I've been looking for, it's a dream.
"I'm one of the highest-capped players in the team but it doesn't matter because the Olympics is a pretty special event. To be representing your country at an event like this is pretty awesome."
It will also be the first Olympic tournament for 21-year-old Finlayson, who has been playing with the side since 2010.
"I'm over the moon, just really ecstatic," she said. "I just want to represent New Zealand on the Olympic stage; that's the pinnacle and it's been my childhood dream for a very long time, so just playing, stepping over that white line will be amazing."
The New Zealand team will go up against long-time rivals Australia in the first match of the tournament, which Finlayson said would be a challenge.
"They're probably our toughest competition, we know them so well and they know us and to be fair, it's a must-win game," she said.
Eshuis agreed that it looked like it was going to be difficult, with the pool also featuring heavyweights Argentina as well as Germany, the United States and South Africa.
"It's going to be tough, we've got a really hard pool so we're going to have to nail a couple of the games to be in a good position to go through."
Earlier this month the Black Sticks completed a four-game exchange with Korea where they lost every match, three by only a one-goal margin, but Eshuis said the team were still capable of winning a medal.
"I don't think we've really hit our peak yet, we're not in top form just yet but we're getting there," she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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