Underwater hockey: Holding your breath can get you what you want

Otago and New Zealand under-23 underwater hockey player Rona Wignall takes a break at Moana Pool...
Otago and New Zealand under-23 underwater hockey player Rona Wignall takes a break at Moana Pool yesterday. Wignall has been picked to compete at the world under-23 championships in Hungary in August. Photo by LInda Robertson.
Underwater hockey supporters do not normally get to see much of the action but Rona Wignall and her team-mates will be on big screens later this year.

Wignall, a music student at the University of Otago, has been picked in the New Zealand team for the world under-23 championships in Hungary in August.

''They have underwater cameras and the game is shown on the big screen above the water,'' she said. Wignall (20) will be joined by fellow Otago students Louise Daley, Sammy Henderson and Annabel Eberlein.

Wignall was a member of the New Zealand team that beat the homeside 5-3 in the final in the Netherlands in 2011.

''I'm excited about the prospects,'' Wignall said.

''I've never been to Hungary before.''

Wignall started playing underwater hockey in her first year at Wellington Girls' College and competed in the school team at the annual New Zealand secondary schools championships.

''About 75 teams compete each year in the national schools championships,'' Wignall said.

''We have eight schools in Wellington that compete in the sport.''

Wignall spends about 12 hours a week training for the sport at Moana Pool and in the gymnasium.

Most of the time is under the water. She is able to hold her breath for two minutes in a static pool but this is reduced in the hustle and bustle of the game to between 10sec and 30sec.

''It's weird. I've become addicted to the sport. You can't talk to team-mates under the water but there is a vibe between players and you have a close bond and know where you need to be in a game.''

Wignall grew up in England and learned to swim in Manchester before moving to New Zealand with her family at the age of 11.

''When I was young I used to think I was a mermaid,'' she said.

''I just love to swim.''

Wignall and sisters Isla (22) and Hannah (24) also play football.

''I grew up close to Coronation St and Manchester United is my favourite football team,'' she said.

Wignall is a second-year music student and her favourite musicians are Eminem and Stravinsky.

Carmen Claassen (Dunedin) is the only Otago player in the elite New Zealand women's team.

The world championships for the under-23 and elite women will be held in Eger, Hungary, from August 23 to September 1.

Hungary bound
NZ under-23 team

Maddie Aiken (Wellington), Rachel Colquhoun (Auckland), Louise Daley (Dunedin), Annabel Eberlein (Nelson), Danielle Gibson (Auckland), Portia Manukuo (Auckland), Sammy Henderson (Wellington), Cali Manley (Auckland), Sarah Preston (Nelson), Abby Vorstermans (Wellington), Christie Whitehead (Nelson), Rona Wignall (Dunedin). Coach: Alex Coombs-King (Nelson). Manager: Viv Coughlan (Tauranga).

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