Investec SA Women’s Hockey player Dirkie Chamberlain recently led her team to Olympic qualification with a brilliant individual performance at the New Delhi Qualification Tournament. The star striker, who currently plays for Utrecht in the Netherlands, finished as the tournament’s second top goal scorer. She sat down with Perdeby and shared her views on TuksHockey, her journey to the top and her hopes for the Olympics in this exclusive interview.
When did you start playing hockey?
I started playing when I was 14 in high school.
That is quite late for a player who is now a national team player, is it not?
Well, sometimes I think it’s a good thing I started so late because I didn’t burn out. Sometimes when you start playing sport at a very young age, you lose interest when you get older.
Why did you choose to come to Tuks?
Well, I went to Pretoria Girls High so Pretoria is my home, and Tuks is a good university, so it was a logical decision.
What did you study at Tuks?
I studied BSportScience. I really enjoyed it and found that the knowledge I gained from my studies helped on the hockey field.
Do you have any role models, not just in hockey but in sport in general?
Yes, firstly Roger Federer. I love him and he’s awesome, and I’m really going to do my best to hunt him down at the Olympics. And I’m a really big fan of Bryan Habana. In hockey, it would have to be Luciana Aymar from Argentina. She’s the number one player in the world and she’s just amazing.
What advice would you give to young players aspiring to be national team hockey players?
Well, I think if they want to be professionals one day, anything is possible, but it just depends on how much you want it and how much you’re willing to work for it. It takes a lot of hard work, determination and you have to respond positively to setbacks, then you’ll get there one day.
What sort of setbacks did you experience on your journey to the top?
Well, firstly it starts off small but you always remember them, like not making the provincial team. All sorts of things have happened to me. Like being left out of numerous South African teams and missing out on the Beijing Olympics due to injury. Injuries have set me back quite a lot. Also, not making the coach’s team for a specific match – even as a professional that’s a setback.
What do you think is the secret behind TuksHockey’s success?
Well, I haven’t played for Tuks for a while, because I’m now based in Holland, but when I did play for Tuks, the success of the club was down to the spirit we had as a team. We were a great unit. We loved Tuks, we loved each other, and that just made us play for each other. There’s just a great passion around TuksHockey. Obviously, it’s also down to the good coaching team – we’ve got Craig Fulton, Natalie Fulton and David Viney, who are all great coaches.
How did it feel sealing qualification for the Olympics at the New Delhi Qualification Tournament?
It was an awesome feeling. This will be my first Olympics, so I’m very excited. We did well because we were so well prepared. We really covered everything in our preparation. As excited as I am, I know I have to still work hard to make the team.
You scored two hat-tricks in the tournament and finished as the second top scorer. How proud are you of your own performance?
Well, for me, it’s all about the performance of the team. Yes, it is nice to score lots of goals, but at the end of the day, without the hard work of my team mates, I wouldn’t have scored them. Most of my goals were just applying the finishing touch to a great team move.
How do you feel about the team’s prospects at the Games?
Well, considering how we’ve improved in the past seven or eight months, I don’t think a medal is impossible. I’m not going to be unrealistic and say “We’re definitely going to win gold”, but I definitely think we can strive to be top six.
Who would you say are the favourites for gold at the Olympics?
I would definitely say the Netherlands and Argentina. They’re the two best teams in the world right now.
Check out our inerview with Dirkie’s national teammate Nicolene Terblanche online at perdeby.co.za