Meet A Gee-Gee

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Goodman discovers the intensity of water polo

Photo credit: Marta Kierkus

Prior to starting at the University of Ottawa, fourth-year biology student Chantel Goodman knew nothing about water polo. But curiosity led her to a team that has since become her family.

“Water polo was totally something new for me, but it has definitely been one of the highlights of my university experience,” she says.

Goodman discovered the sport while swimming laps at Montpetit Hall, where the water polo teams practise. They seemed like they were having fun, and it looked really intense, so she decided to try out the following year. She quickly discovered how tough water polo really is.

“I thought I was a good swimmer until I tried water polo … my first game was a lesson in drowning,” she recalls. “You’re constantly being pulled underwater by other people, people get in your face. There’s no bubble when you’re playing water polo.”

Goodman says people often underestimate the athletic ability of those who play. She regards her teammates and coaches as the strongest of athletes.

“They are strong and fit and have good endurance. They have everything you could ever imagine that an athlete should possess.”

It’s the required mental and physical endurance that is, for Goodman, the toughest thing about the sport.

“Mustering that last bit of energy that you don’t have, it’s a mental thing that you need in order to keep on going,” she says. “When you’re swimming back and forth, it’s your mental energy that’s getting you back. It’s not only your physical energy.”

Despite the challenges of the game, she says the teams invite people of all abilities to play with them. Some on the team have been playing their entire lives, while others joined at the beginning of university.

“That’s what’s great about it, because everybody’s treated the same,” Goodman says. “Everybody has to try just as hard and is pushed the same amount.”

Growing up, Goodman wanted to play on the national women’s hockey team. Fittingly, her athletic hero was, for the longest time, Hayley Wickenheiser. By the time she was in high school, Goodman had become an all-around athlete involved in hockey, soccer, and cross-country skiing.

In part, her decision to join the water polo team two years ago is a reflection of her general attitude towards university.

“I think it’s really important for first-year students, or students of any year, who want to get involved but are intimidated, to not feel intimidated and try out different things,” she says. “It’s the most rewarding thing.”