By Sean Rooney on September 13, 2018.
From the biggest water polo tournament in the world back home to a tiny club, Gabrielle Vas has seen both ends of the spectrum in her sport.
She hopes it has lots more in store for her.
Vas, 15, played in the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics this summer, on one of hundreds of teams in Miami, Florida.
This week she’s back at the Family Leisure Centre, helping coach a younger age group but one of only four girls in the local club’s competitive program.
“You don’t really see how intense it is until you see under the water,” said Vas, prior to a swimming practice Wednesday night. “It’s not a very common sport, but it’s really good.”
While the Medicine Hat Water Polo club has been around for 10 years since coach Jason Williams came to town, it’s still under the radar. A free series of trial sessions will take place Sept. 21 and 22, with Vas and Williams hopeful to see some prospective players in the pool. Anyone interested can visit mhwp.ca for more information.
“You have to love it, because it’s a different sport, a niche sport,” said Williams, who started the club on the heels of the 2008 Alberta Summer Games, which included water polo. “It is a great sport for a lot of people to try. If it becomes their passion, that’s what I’m here for.”
Vas loves it because she’s not the fastest swimmer, but she’s strong and at 5-foot-9, has the sort of reach that can deflect balls in passing lanes and get shots to the net around smaller players.
What’s kept her going despite not having many other teammates locally?
“I just liked how much fun of a game it was,” she said. “I was never a good runner, I was a decent swimmer so in the water, it’s a bit of contact. I was clumsy as a kid, so it was perfect, not really be able to mess anything up.”
She’s getting good, too. Her forte is defence as she plays one of the two side positions, also getting in some longer shots at goal. Williams figures the Grade 11 student at Crescent Heights will get scholarship offers and could certainly play south of the border if she wants.
Whether that’s still a goal in a couple years remains to be seen, but Vas has certainly enjoyed travelling to tournaments in Canada and the U.S., and meeting players from around the world. Her teammates in Miami included girls from New Zealand, South Africa and Brazil.
The trip to Florida was her third time at Junior Olympics. In Alberta, she travels every weekend to practice with a team in Calgary. Their first meet of the season is next month.
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