University of Johannesburg hockey star Kristen Paton was taken aback but delighted to learn of her selection for South Africa’s Commonwealth Games squad to compete in Australia in April.
Despite having a good year in 2017, when she made her national debut, the 21-year-old chiropractic student thought her inexperience might be a factor in the selectors’ thinking.
“I was really surprised about my selection and am still in awe,” said Paton, who lives in Melville in Johannesburg.
At one stage, she said, she had put the Commonwealth Games out of her mind, instead concentrating solely on producing some good performances.
Now, having achieved one of her goals, Paton said she was delighted to be travelling to Australia.
“It’s a platform to compete with some of the best athletes in the world and it’s always good to compare ourselves to other nations.
“I also enjoy multi-sport events because you’re exposed to other disciplines but in an environment with like-minded people that allows you to perform and provides everything that you may need.”
Attending the Commonwealth Games, which take place on the Gold Coast from April 4 to 15, was the second tick on her bucket list after making her national debut last year.
Paton was introduced to hockey at Constantia Kloof Primary in Johannesburg in Grade 3 and immediately fell in love with the game.
“But it wasn’t until Grade 10 [at Northcliff High] that things started picking up and I made my first provincial team.”
Moving to UJ, Paton said two years under coach Robin van Ginkel provided her with a crucial high-performance environment that she needed for her growth.
“Funnily enough, the UJ men’s first team coach, Gareth Ewing, invested in me at the age of 16 when he selected me for the Gauteng U21 team and he has been involved ever since.”
She said her family had also played a huge role, encouraging her when disappointment struck and “always being the voice that pushes you to keep going”.