Kiwis excel in double acts

Kiwis excel in double acts

Different strokes

Sofia Kennedy, besides playing basketball for her country, is also a cross country runner. DH photo

Athletes’ juggling between two sporting disciplines isn’t a new phenomenon, Australia’s Ellyse Perry and Ashleigh Barty are just two of the names who have successfully done it. Perry switched between cricket and football while Barty traded her tennis racquet for a cricket bat.  

The New Zealand team, competing at the ongoing FIBA under-18 Women’s Asian Championship, have four players -- Charlisse Leger-Walker, Sofia Kennedy, Emilia Shearer, and Rochelle Fourie -- whose skill sets are not limited to the basketball court.

Leger-Walker, the captain of the side, excels in touch rugby, Kennedy had represented her country in cross country, Shearer was in the youth Kiwi volleyball squad that participated in the Asian Championship in Thailand earlier this year and Fourie plays netball in the U-17 and U-19 levels for her club Manawatu back home.

The varying interests may cause trouble for some coaches but it doesn’t bother the junior Tall Ferns coach Jody Cameron. “New Zealand is very good at crossing over in sports. It is common for us to have some dual internationals coming through young age groups,” said Cameron. “Because of our limited resources, we have to use each other. It is quite typical for the elite sports in our country to talk to each other,” she added.

Less number of people is the other reason the coach gave for youngsters opting for specialisation in more than one discipline. “We do not have as many people as India. But we have more quality and we want to go all round and that benefits us.” 

Cameron said playing different sports helped one to gain valuable lessons. “We played a different sport every day of the week and basketball is something we chose because it is such a great sport. You can be everything in it,” she said.  

The 18-year-old Kennedy is aware of the pressure of being a multi-sport athlete. But if circumstances make her choose between the two, she’ll go with basketball. 

“It can be pretty hard. I have to focus on two different sports at two different times depending on the events which are coming up.  Like early this year I was mainly running and now I am playing basketball,” Kennedy said. “I could just focus on basketball and drop the running.”