Tristan Drummond, a business science student at the University of Cape Town (UCT), recently represented South Africa at two international canoe polo tournaments in Belgium.
Drummond, who is a committee member of the UCT Canoe Club, explained the sport: “It’s basically water polo but in a kayak. You paddle up to [the ball] and either let go of your paddle or hold it in your left hand, pick up the ball and then pass it.”
The aim is to score goals, similar to water polo.
“The goals aren’t on the water, they’re suspended above the water, and they are slightly smaller than water polo goals.
“You can play on any flat body of water, so it can be a dam, a lake, or we play in the harbour at the [V&A] Waterfront,” he said.
Drummond was first introduced to the sport in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) five years ago.
“In KZN there’s a school’s canoeing league, and one of the events is canoe polo. It was ideal, because I fell in love with kayaking, and I’ve always loved team sports. Then one weekend … I played, and the rest is history.”
The tournaments in Belgium were held in the towns of Ghent and Ypres. The South Africa squad arrived in Ghent on 18 August and spent two days there training with the Gekko Canoe Club before competing in the Gekko International Tournament.
“We really learnt as a team to focus on the process more than the results.”
“We played in the first division, where there were 24 teams. We had some awesome games; got absolutely thrashed. This was because we were playing against the best in the world.
“We really learnt as a team to focus on the process more than the results. And, actually – according to our own benchmarks – we won a few games, even though the results said we lost,” said Drummond.
“Then we went to the other side of Belgium, to Ypres. We trained there for a few days, and then played in one of the biggest tournaments in Europe.”
This was the International Tournament De Paddel, with 70 teams competing in four divisions. The South African team played in the second division this time.
Although canoe polo is relatively unknown in South Africa, with only around 200 players, it is very popular in Europe.
“We were the only team from Africa. There was a New Zealand squad and everyone else was from Europe,” said Drummond.
So what comes next for Drummond?
“I’ve got three weeks off to rest and recover, and try and catch up on the varsity work. Then the whole squad is committed to training hard; five or six times a week. We have training camps all over the country to meet up and just try [to] keep the momentum.”
“The whole squad is committed to training hard; five or six times a week. We have training camps all over the country to meet up and just try [to] keep the momentum.”
The next big tournament is the African Championships, being held in Cape Town in September 2019.
“Every two years, South Africa selects a side for African Champs,” said Drummond.
“Then every alternating two years we select a side for World Champs. But we went on this tour rather than [to the] World Champs this year.
“We thought the experience would be more valuable going into the next World Championships, which is Rome in 2020.”
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