Johannesburg - While living her dream and playing hockey on a continent other than her own, Nthabeleng Maine has, bizarrely, been asked which South African country she comes from.
“I am thoroughly enjoying being in the US, and being on another continent has certainly opened my eyes to what the rest of the world has to offer and what other people think about my country,” says the 20-year-old.
Maine, who is originally from Durban, rose to stardom when she represented her country in the Under-21 Hockey World Cup in Chile last year.
Hockey stood out
Going to the Junior World Cup was the highlight of her hockey career at that stage.
“I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything,” she says.
After her impressive performance in Chile, an opportunity arose for her to study at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.
She’s had to discard her BA in film and television at Wits University in Johannesburg, but will continue her studies abroad.
Maine fell in love with hockey at the age of seven.
“As a kid, I pretty much played every sport under the sun,” she says.
She participated in baseball, basketball and cricket, but “hockey always stood out”.
Access to resources
In Grade 10, she had to choose between football and hockey. She had to either go on a provincial soccer tour with the Under-17 KwaZulu-Natal team, or go to local hockey games with her school.
Maine chose the latter.
She believes South Africa is very close to or is on par with many of the great hockey-playing nations in terms of talent.
“What I think sets us apart from those countries is their access to resources such as the college hockey set-up,” Maine says.
She has been nominated for a Gauteng Sports Award in the most promising athlete category. The awards ceremony takes place in Krugersdorp, Gauteng, on Sunday night.