Road to London: Kate Woods
Cape Town - In the second in a series of Q 'n A style interviews with South African sportsmen and women ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Graeme Joffe chats to South African women's hockey star, Kate Woods.
Road to London: Bridgette Hartley
GRAEME JOFFE: South African hockey star, Kate Woods, formerly Kate Hector, Kate was Duncan not prepared to take your surname?
KATE WOODS: Hi Graeme, no, he is pretty tough but it is still Hector on the back of my shirt. (laughter)
JOFFE: But surely hockey prevails over water polo and for those of you who don’t know, Kate is married to Duncan Woods, who is a former South African water polo captain. So, it is a very sporty family.
WOODS: Ja, thanks, we had a little boy 17 months ago, but the pressure is on, we just love sports, so it is a nice common passion in the family.
JOFFE: Congratulations, 17 months and you back on the hockey field, looks like you never left.
WOODS: Thank you. I did take a good few games to get into it, but I was pleasantly surprised that at the level I could get back to quite quickly. It is just a fantastic opportunity for me to be given this experience again and playing for the national team.
JOFFE: Kate, if I am not mistaken, this will be your third Olympic Games and I am assuming Duncan has got to be jealous. I don’t think our water polo guys have ever gone to the Olympics or have they?
WOODS: No, unfortunately, they haven’t been given the opportunity yet but he has been at the last two supporting me, and they will definitely be at London, should I go.
JOFFE: You guys have played some unbelievable hockey, would I be fair to say that this is the best SA team that you have played on?
WOODS: It is really hard to compare teams you know, at different stages, it is really hard to compare, but what is amazing at the moment is the structure that gels and the team has provided, and created, the amount of tests that we are playing in a year, is something quite frightening. In the past it was averaging 25 tests in a busy year, whereas now we are reaching nearly 50. So, I think that is all the difference, we are running a lot of players, everyone is getting much needed experience, and I think that is making all the difference right now.
JOFFE: And the blend of youth and experience. Also, Pietie Coetzee has been incredible, an amazing goal scoring prowess. Over 220 goals for SA!
WOODS: It is a world record, and she fully deserves it, and she is a wonderful athlete to have in our team.
JOFFE: It has been a tough qualification road for you guys, pretty much having to qualify twice. But I guess that has helped you in a way with more test match competition.
KATE WOODS: Ja, in the beginning, it was quite hard to digest, you know, and a few people had a few questions around it and why now, and it is going to be quite difficult to qualify now. But in the end, it is only going to help our preparations for London. I have personally never played in a tournament like that (final qualifier in India) with such high pressure, and everything at stake. It has put us into some high pressure situations, and we have performed, and we have come through, so it is really going to help in our preparation in the long run.
JOFFE: If you look back at the past Olympics, what is your favourite memories?
WOODS: I think Athens was incredibly special because I was fairly new to the team, my debut was 2003, and 2004 I was at the Athens Olympics. So, I really just had no idea what to expect, so that was special in its own way. Beijing, I felt a lot more grounded, I was a more experienced played in the team, I actually had one of my better years that year, I think I reached my top performance, so it was a special experience for me to be playing well, and contributing so much on the field. Any Olympic Games is the pinnacle event of any athletes career, so the two are definitely my highlights.
JOFFE: London medal expectations ? I promise I am not going to tell SASCOC, realistically what do you think ?
WOODS: You know, on the day, anything can happen, and I think a lot depends on what pool we get allocated to, and that depends on the next two teams that qualify. So, we could potentially be facing a tough pool, or otherwise if Belgium goes through ahead of Spain next month, then we are in a much more favourable pool. In that case, we would then play against teams like Argentina, Germany and USA, teams that we can actually do well against. So, you never know but you also want to be realistic, and for us, position 5-8 would also be a great achievement for our team.
JOFFE: Would be great if the SA men’s team also qualify for London.
WOODS: It would be so special, and we are really there behind them every step of the way. We have just been through the process now, so we know how much hard pressure it is, a lot of emotion, so I really, really hope they can do it, I believe that they can and it would be extra special to have our men there with us.
JOFFE: And what is Duncan up to these days?
WOODS: Duncan is back working with Ernie Els, with his wines and the likes of those other businesses around South Africa, and he is coaching a lot of water polo. Also, starting his MBA, so we have a busy life at the moment.
JOFFE: (laughter) with a 17-month-old as well.
JOFFE: Kate, you come from some very good genes, the Hector family, I take it you are related to Donald, Paul and all of them?
WOODS: They are my half brothers yes, my dad was a cricketer, and then Paul and Donald had huge talent growing up, playing a lot of sport, and then my brother Benjamin was also a professional cricketer for some time, my mom is a great squash player, so, ja, the genes run in the family, it is an inheritance.
JOFFE: Kate Hector Woods, it was really great to chat to you on Sports Fire, and from all of us, to all the girls, wishing you all the best of luck for London, and hopefully we will chat when you guys come back with an Olympic medal.
WOODS: Thanks very much, let’s hope for that. Thanks Graeme, I appreciate it.
Catch Graeme Joffe on SportsFire every Monday and Thursday at 17:30 on Radio Today, 1485am in JHB, National on DStv audio channel 169 and streaming worldwide on www.1485.org.za. Follow Graeme Joffe on Twitter: @joffersmyboy
Kate Hector, 30, is a member of the South African national women's squad that finished ninth at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The midfielder was born in Johannesburg, but now resides in Cape Town where she represents Western Province.
Kate Woods in action for the South African women's hockey team (Gallo Images)