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Sydney golden girls help announce Rio women's water polo team

19 June 2016

RIO TEAM: The women’s water polo section for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games have received a special phone call from the gold medal Sydney 2000 water polo team who confirmed their 2016 Olympic Team selection.

The Rio 2016 Team members were surprised and left speechless as their sporting heroes made the call they have been waiting four years for, “you’re going to Rio.”

Australian Women’s Water Polo Coach Greg McFadden said the Sydney 2000 Olympic women’s water polo team inspired so many of the current crop of players to get involved in the sport, it seemed fitting they made the call to the Rio team.

“The Sydney 2000 team are the only Australian water polo team that has won a gold medal and we’re setting out to equal their achievement in Rio.

“So many of our team got their inspiration to take part in the sport from the Sydney team and we wanted to create an opportunity for them to have a conversation and build a relationship with the players that inspired them,” said McFadden.

For Captain Bronwen Knox, who will line up for her third Olympics, the phone call from Sydney 2000 player Simone Hankin was very unexpected.

“It was really surprising - it wasn’t a number recognised and I thought it might be a telemarketer,” laughed Knox.

“It was so special to talk to Simone - after two Olympics it was just a nice way to find out you’ve made the team.

“To be able to talk to her about things we have both experienced like coming back from injury as well as her insights on how to deal with different things leading into an Olympics, was so helpful.

“Over 12 years of being in the Olympic program you have plenty of ups and down and personally I had to come back from injury and I wasn’t really sure the body was up to it.

“But the group of girls we have are so energetic, everyone single one of them puts in all they have and we have the same dream of winning that medal together, and that’s really helped keep me motivated,” said Knox.

The Australian Women’s Water Polo Team for the Rio Olympics will see Knox and Gemma Beadsworth both line up for their third Olympics with Rowie Webster, Glencora McGhie, Nicola Zagame, Holly Lincoln-Smith and Ashleigh Southern all lining up for their second. 

They will be joined by six debutants, Keesja Gofers, Hannah Buckling, Kelsey Wakefield, Lea Yanitsas, Isobel Bishop and Zoe Arancini.

Among the debutants is Keesja Gofers, who is keeping the family water polo tradition alive with her sister Tanieleplaying for Australia at the Beijing Olympic Games.

“I was in Beijing watching my sister line up to sing the Australian anthem and that’s where it all became real for me – at that moment I knew I wanted to go to the Olympics,” said Gofers.

“This team has been together a very long time and we know each other so well.  There were a few of us who have played together since our first World Junior Championships in 2007 – now we’re going to the Olympics together.

“I got the call from Bron (Smith) from the Sydney team and I started to cry. I’d spoken to Bron before but to have a one-on-one conversation with her was incredible.

“Her advice was really valuable – just reassuring me not to be nervous, I’ve been here a million times before and when the whistle goes I’ll know what I need to do,” said Gofers.

The Australian Women’s Water Polo Team will head into the Rio Olympics ranked among the favourites, having won two bronze medals at the London and Beijing Olympic Games combined with recent form at the FINA World League Super Final and Kunshan Cup.

Defending Olympic Champions USA will again be the one’s to beat, but Coach McFadden says they aren’t untouchable.

“Our last tour proved the USA are still the one’s to beat, they won three of the five games we played against them. They showed us if you’re not on your game they can really dominate you.

“But you can’t discount any side, which is why you need to be playing at your best in every game or otherwise you may not come away with a win”.

“At the recent FINA World Cup Final, Spain showed that they are among one of the favourites and will certainly be a team to watch come Rio,” said McFadden.

The Aussies have made no secret they setting out for Rio with gold in their sights and McFadden believes they are a different playing group to previous Olympics.

“This team has more fire power which sets them apart from the last two Olympic teams I have coached.   Previously we’ve relied on our senior players to be the leading goal scorers but over the last 12-18 months our younger players have been among the top scorers.

“For our new Olympians, they bring a wealth of experience each playing more than 100 international games. 

“They have all competed at the World Championships and World Cup levels so they have the big game experience,” he said.

The Australian Women’s Water Polo team will face Russia, Italy and Brazil in the preliminary rounds of the Rio Olympic Games.

These 13 athletes take the overall 2016 Australian Olympic Team to 182 from 17 sports, with an expected final Team of around 440 athletes. Complete biographies on all selected athletes here>>>

Lauren Ryan

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