​One ball. 14 players. No room to think.

October 09, 2017

With medals in swimming and water polo, Cliona Colvin is a double threat. She loves both sports equally, but accepts how different they are. “When I swim it relaxes me, and my head clears. In water polo your head doesn’t get a chance to clear; there are 6 players bearing down on you, and your mind has to focus on remembering drills and finding your teammates.”

As 15, Cliona is usually the youngest in the pool, and has to square up against larger opponents. But she manages to turn her size and speed to her team’s advantage. “Playing against bigger girls is tough, but they’re not all good swimmers, so I just swim away from them. I’m the fastest on the Irish team, so I always swim for the ball. I had a bruised hand print on my ankle once because another girl wouldn’t let go.”

Water polo is non-contact in name only. Things can get very physical, but Cliona welcomes the fight. “It’s normal to get punched and elbowed and kicked and pinched. You’re technically not allowed, but it’s part of the sport, and it can be fun.”

The referees are meant to step in if they see something, but in the ruck for the ball this isn’t always possible. “There are two referees, one in the pool and one outside it. If they see an opponent’s hand, they get an exclusion. But that doesn’t always happen.”

Lining out with her teammates, Cliona doesn’t let the physicality or size of other teams get to her. “There are 6 players behind you. I love how water polo is a team sport, and that everyone works together. If we win we win as a team, it’s not just me. It feels good because all of the training has paid off.”

Me and the Water

Cliona, Water Polo Player