Lewis-born student Harriet McNaughton is hoping to make the grade to take part in a gruelling World Championships next year – as one of only two women in Scotland playing Underwater Hockey at that level.
Underwater Hockey is an exciting and dynamic sport played on the bottom of a swimming pool. The game is fast and relies on superb fitness, high levels of skill and very close teamwork.
Two teams compete to manoeuvre a puck across the bottom of a swimming pool into the opposing team's goal by propelling it with a hockey stick.
It is played in 45 countries worldwide and there are currently more than 1200 registered players in the UK. It originated in England in 1954 when Alice Cleverley, of Southsea Sub-Aqua Club, invented a game she called Octopush as a winter activity for the club's members. But as this is not one of the official ‘core sports’ for national funding, this leaves participants seeking additional sponsorship wherever they can.
Harriet, whose home is in Uig, is currently in her third year at Stirling University, studying Cell Biology having attended Stornoway primary school and The Nicolson Institute. She comes from a competitive swimming background and took up the new sport in her first year at university and was invited to train with Team GB after eight months of playing the sport.
She is now actively trialling for Team GB and hopes to be one of twelve Under-23 ladies representing Team GB in the 2019 World Championships in Sheffield. This is the first time in 10 years that a World Championship has been held on home soil and competition for one of 12 spaces on the team is extremely tough. International competitions involve 30-minute games at 3-metre pool depth, which requires an extremely high standard of fitness.
Harriet says: “I'm one of only two Scottish women trialling, amongst hundreds of others, and the only woman from Stirling university trialling.
“I regularly travel south to train with GB squads and coaches in Leeds and Sheffield. In order to compete successfully and reach our full potential, we are expected to follow a tough training programme involving: energy system fitness to improve breath hold and speed up anaerobic recovery time; and muscular fitness, including strength, flexibility and power.”
And it is with the costs of doing all this travelling that Harriet would love to have some sponsorship to help her excel still more.
“Both Lewis and Harris sports centre have been nice enough to give me access to the pool and gym, and this hugely helps me to keep up my training schedule when I'm home on the island.
“As well as training with my university club, I also train with Glasgow and Cardiff clubs.”
(More details about underwater hockey can be found on the BOA website www.gbuwh.co.uk).