Sunday, 10 April 2011



FULL NAME: Shelley Kim RussellHOMETOWN: Not too sure if it is Cape Town, Johannesburg, or Ghent!CLUB TEAM: Gantoise in Ghent, or Western Province Cricket Club in Cape Town. SHIRT NUMBER: 10

What position do you usually play and what is your preferred position?

Since moving from striker into the midfield (left link) at Gantoise, I have enjoyed the change. I have also started playing at link for South Africa, so they must be happy with my play in that position. I miss running into the circle from striker or right wing, but I am able to do more work in defence from midfield.
How many caps for SA?

98 (and hopefully counting!)

Favourite other sport?

At school I played tennis, squash, swimming and even athletics. I prefer ball sports. We come from a very sporting family, so I enjoy watching the sports my brothers played as well, being rugby and cricket
How many hours a week do you train?

The South African squad is on a structured, monitored programme, so I have to do various gym, running and sprint work over and above my club training. I usually train approximately 3-6 hours per day.

If you were to describe your style of play, what would it be?

I am generally an attacking type of player, and like to run at defences. My role in the past has been to carry the ball into the circle, and create as much panic as possible in defences. I have won a fair share of penalty corners for sides that I have played for.

What are the strengths of your game?

I believe that my strongest asset is speed over short distances, and acceleration. I also tend to get myself fit fairly quickly, so am able to maintain a fair work-rate throughout the match.
Weaknesses (If any....)?

I would say that I haven’t scored as many goals in my career as I should have, preferring to set up others to shoot at goal, so you could say that one of my weaknesses is “finishing off.”
What do you spend most time working on at training, if there is anything particular?

My ball-control has improved over the past few years, which is a result of hours and hours of repetitive stick-work training. Having said that, there are also many hours spent on pure fitness.

What is your favourite hockey memory and when was this?

Nerves prevented me from remembering much of my international debut (against India in 2006 – my first year out of school.) I would say the big tournaments stand out, such as my two Hockey World Cups ( Madrid in 2006, and Rosario last year) and of course it doesn’t come much bigger than being at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. Generally I love touring and tournaments, and seeing different countries all over the world through hockey, has been very special.
And your worst memory?

I went through a really hard time with a lower-back injury, which kept me out of hockey for six months just prior to the Olympics in 2008. Getting back into contention for selection was really tough, and then on the eve of departing for the Olympics, I thought that I was coming down with acute appendicitis. I was in deep despair, but had hundreds of very special family and friends praying for me. Many say it was a miracle that I made it to Beijing!  I was bitterly disappointed not to be selected for the Commonwealth Games in India last year – one of my career goals, but sport is just part of life, with many ups and downs.
How do you rate SA's chances of gaining good results at the 2012 Olympics?

At this point in time, SA is still only ranked 12th in the world, so based on that, we shouldn’t be considered contenders. However, in December we took a game off Argentina, the world champs, and this year won a series against China, ranked 4 in the world, so we are getting more competitive against top teams. We go to our Champs Challenge tournament in Ireland in June, and have to do well there in order to be considered to be sent to the London Olympics as part of Team SA. It is not merely a matter of qualifying for the Olympics as African champs – our Olympic Committee only wants to send genuinely competitive athletes and teams to the Olympics. As a team, we know our work is cut out for us.

Over the past few months SA hockey has had tremendously good results, what do you think is the main reason for this and why?

Many people back home attribute this entirely to the appointment of a new coach, Giles Bonnet. Certainly he has brought new ideas and thinking to the setup, but I feel there is a combination of factors. There is a good blend of exuberant youth, with broad experience mixed into the squad. The return from retirement of our main striker, Pietie Coetzee, who is closing in on the world record of 220 international goals, has made a huge difference to the belief within the squad. Generally, everyone seems to be lifting their individual games and contributing to the group dynamic. A huge factor in our resurgence has been with Investec coming on board as our team sponsor. Suddenly we are able to do so much more in terms of training camps, hosting tournaments, bringing in training consultants etc.

Do you think that T.V. coverage and the profile of the game is improving?

I can only really comment on the South African situation, where hockey has always been a bit of a Cinderella sport, taking a back seat to the more popular sports of football (soccer), rugby and cricket. Certainly over the past six months or so, the profile of hockey has improved, with match results being reported in the media, and highlights package programmes being aired.

Do you think good results correlates to this?

Definitely a winning culture generates support amongst the public. We have seen this just from crowd support at matches, with more and more spectators attending as our recent tournaments progressed.

What do you do outside hockey?

I finished my BA Sports Science degree at Stellenbosch University in 2009, and have been dividing my time between South African and Belgium since then. I am enrolling at University in Ghent, in order to improve my qualifications. I am using the opportunity while based in Ghent to experience new cultures, and to travel as much as possible. I have a brother playing professional rugby in France, and I try to visit his family whenever possible. I have always been an outdoors person, and am learning to swop my water-sport interests (water-skiing, wakeboarding, etc.) for snow skiing. I absolutely love any opportunity to get in some skiing.

How long do you plan to play hockey for?

This is difficult to say, but as it is an amateur sport, I am going to have to settle down to a career at some stage. It would be so much easier if hockey was a professional sport in SA, and one could make a living from it, and plan ahead on that basis. The level of hockey we are aspiring to takes such time commitments. I suppose I will stop playing as soon as I am no longer enjoying what I am doing.
Any advice for aspiring young hockey players?

I can clearly recall as a schoolgirl, setting goals as far as hockey was concerned. I have been most fortunate to have achieved most of those goals. My advice to youngsters, in whatever field they want to achieve, is to dream, and to dream big! Vividly imagine yourself attaining your dreams and goals. We have a family saying : “Luck is where preparation and opportunity meet.” When opportunities arise, you need to be prepared to grab that opportunity. Whenever you train, remind yourself that you are preparing yourself for future opportunities. In that way, you can create your own “luck.” Skill is one thing, but hard work seldom goes unrewarded.
Thank you Shelly for your time,  all the best...
BLOG BY:  Elzanne Jacobs

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