Young Black Sticks forward is excited for Tokyo Olympics
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Manawatū Black Sticks forward Olivia Shannon is thrilled to be playing her first Olympic Games in Tokyo.
A brief lockdown in Perth has prepared young Black Sticks forward Olivia Shannon for what life in Japan should be like for the Tokyo Olympics.
Shannon, 20, and the Black Sticks arrived in Tokyo this weekend ahead of Friday’s games, as they prepare for their first game against Argentina on Sunday.
These are the first Olympics for Shannon, who hails from rural Waituna West north of Feilding in Manawatū, but it will be different from the usual games due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Before going to Japan, the Black Sticks had their final build in Australia, but it turned out to be slightly different than expected.
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New Zealand faced Australia in a four-game series at Palmerston North in May, then traveled to Perth for two more tests.
But a Covid-19 outbreak meant the Black Sticks had to spend more time in Perth than expected and were stranded for four days.
That meant a 10-day trip turned into three weeks, but at least they got to play another test match.
“It was good to have a few international games under our belt before we left. We haven’t had too many. It was nice to play a few consecutive games against them.
They added a team camp due to the extended stay, which Shannon said put them in a good position for Tokyo.
They couldn’t go to the turf during the lockdown, but could go for a run in pairs.
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Every Kiwi athlete who arrives in Tokyo, Japan before the Olympics is greeted with a haka.
The team were prepared, however, and had brought exercise equipment to work in their hotel rooms, including dribbling hockey balls.
Upon their return, they had security briefings and Covid-19 testing in Auckland. Shannon said the Olympics will be a different dynamic due to Covid-19 and that there is a lot to know on the pitch.
“I think everyone is really looking forward to [the Olympics] and are really excited for hockey … The team is really clear on what we need to do with the whole Covid situation.
“If everyone is on the same page, hockey should be easy. “
She said the team was motivated to bring home a medal and the Perth situation had given them a glimpse of what it would be like in Tokyo under Covid-19 regulations.
Shannon has made an exciting start to her international career and looks good up front, but is not the only young weapon on the team to make it into the games.
Auckland’s Katie Doar and Taranaki’s Hope Ralph are also relatively new to the international game and Shannon said it’s cool to have other squad members with similar experience levels.
“I personally think I’m probably starting to hit my straps a bit more as I get older which is due to the girls on the team,” Shannon said.
“They make me have a little more confidence, understanding and clarity on the games.”