Bronwen Knox will join an elite club when she steps into the pool to face Canada at the Tokyo Olympic Games on July 24.
Knox, whose career started at North Brisbane Polo Bears in Albany Creek 20 years ago, will be the first Australian woman to play water polo at four Olympics.
In fact, only five athletes have represented Australia at more Olympic Games than the graduate from St Paul’s School, Bald Hills.
Preparations have been hit hard by the COVID pandemic. Knox and the Aussie Stingers team have trained, but not played an international match for 18 months.
After only three weeks at home in the last four months, the Stingers’ schedule is now a pre-Games camp, home for a few days, into a ‘soft bubble’ then to Tokyo, via Cairns.
Meanwhile, Canada and the US have played a three-game series and are now in Europe for more international matches in the FINA Women’s World League Super Final (June 14-19).
Quarter by quarter
Knox, 35, who won bronze medals at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and London 2012, said game-time was the “biggest difference to previous years”.
“(Pre COVID) we might have had 20-25 games, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” she said. “We’ve played matches within the squad and against boys.
“This is the fittest we’ve been going into an Olympics and we’ll just take it day by day, game by game, quarter by quarter.
“It’s nice to walk away with a medal, but this has been a crazy time in the lead up. I hope we play the best we can and have that magic of playing together.”
After Canada, the Aussie Stingers face South Africa, Netherlands and Spain in Group A. Group B has Russia, China, US, Hungary and Japan then into the knockout quarter-finals.
Knox’s experience will be invaluable in Tokyo having captained the Stingers in Beijing, London and Rio 2016, when they reached the quarter-finals.
She joined the leadership team in 2007 and has now stepped aside, but will still offer advice if any team member asks.
“There’s a special bond you form as a team, whether or not you are friends, you have mutual respect for each other,” Knox said.
“You know everyone has gone through these gruelling training sessions to get there.”
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North Brisbane Polo Bears coach Naomi McCarthy, who won gold at Sydney 2000, said: “We wish Bron all the best for a fantastic fourth Olympic Games.
“We are thrilled to have been a part of her water polo journey and love having her back playing with us for Premier League, inspiring and mentoring the next generation of polo bear stars.
“With this Olympics she becomes the most decorated of all Australian women’s water polo players.
“The fact that she started with us and played all her junior polo at our club is a proud moment for us all, the whole club will be cheering for her and her teammates in Tokyo.”
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