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Olivia Shannon Is One Step Closer To Olympic Dream

Sixteen-year-old student Olivia Shannon has just been selected for Hockey New Zealand’s prestigious new Pathway to Podium Programme.

Olivia was one of the stars of the Iona 1st XI hockey team who were named the 2017 Hawke’s Bay Champions for the second year in a row and finished fifth place in the elite Federation Cup Tournament. To end the 2017 season ranked No 5 in New Zealand was a new best for Iona hockey.

And for this Year 12 Striker who last year also represented Central Districts U18 to bring home gold at the Vantage National U18 Championship and was selected for a Junior Black Sticks training squad, playing at this level was all part of realising her childhood dream, one she now has firmly in her sights.

Pathway to Podium (P2P) 2018/2019 is a partnership programme between Hockey New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ), designed to support the preparation of athletes for the physical and mental demands of a high-performance sport environment.

Just ten female players have been selected for the 2018/2019 P2P, and Olivia is one of only four from schools across New Zealand.

For Manawatu born Olivia who grew up in Waituna West and transferred from rugby to hockey in Year 6 before becoming a full-time Boarder at Iona in Year 7, it does not get any better than this.

“As a young girl,” says Olivia, “I played any sport I could get my hands on. My first hockey team was Hunterville, then Oroua, and my first ever rep team was the Rangitiki Redbacks.  I then moved to Hawke’s Bay in Year 7 to board at Iona College. I played hockey for the school and made the Hawke’s Bay U13 Collier team then moved up the age groups”.

“I’ve always been an extremely competitive person, and my goal is to the represent New Zealand at the major hockey tournaments such as World League, Commonwealth and Olympic Games. Hockey has fuelled this passion and ever since I picked up my stick I was determined to put my all into it.”

The new Pathway to Podium model is a step closer in Olivia’s chances to have a shot at being selected for the Black Sticks and play for her country. P2P is designed to support both athlete and coach development at this top level, with the athlete component delivered as a blend of camp based hockey specific support and regional delivery of strength, conditioning and athlete life.

According to Hockey New Zealand’s Athlete Pathway Manager Greg Nichol “The focus will be on supporting these athletes to prepare for high performance through the following:

– Sport specific development at hockey development camps
– Education about the requirements and demands of a high-performance sport
– Preparation for transition into high performance
– A blend of education and educational support in key areas of athlete performance support.”

Olivia is very grateful to Iona College for their encouragement and providing excellent academic support to ensure she can balance the P2P programme and hockey training with her Level 2 NCEA requirements.

She notes with a smile her biggest supporters are her parents Rachel and Greg Shannon and brother Ben, and she is quick to acknowledge many others who have inspired her along the way; her coaches, Hawke’s Bay Hockey, Iona Captain Arabella Sheild and best friends and competitors Rileigh Knapp and Kaitlin Cotter who have been unfailing in their support and continually push her to become a better player. Also, her Central Districts Coach Verity Sharland who has been an incredible mentor and helped her through to this stage.

“To be honest”, she says “I do have the best support team I could ever wish for.  I have the most supportive family and friends whether from back at home in Feilding or in Hawke’s Bay.  They are the most amazing people and their support makes me that little bit more determined to reach my goals”.