South African national hockey player and Stellenbosch University (SU) alumna, Erin Christie (née Hunter), has made 59 international appearances for South Africa. Now she is representing South Africa at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, with the added honour of captaining the national team.
A year ago, the South African team's efforts were nearly thwarted when the Summer Olympics was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The postponement was disappointing. Everyone had had this target in their mind, but then the goal post was shifted by a year. We tried to see it as a positive though and an added year of preparation," says Christie.
The pandemic also meant less international playing time.
So, when the lockdown levels allowed it, the team would spend every second weekend training together. Christie also trained on her own thanks to the team's sports scientist who set up a home-based programme to ensure everyone remained fit.
However, the pandemic has not diminished the athlete's tenacity. It is this same determination that has seen her build an impressive track record as a professional hockey player since high school. In Grade 10 she played for the Southern Gauteng u16 C team and by Grade 12 for their u18 A team. She joined the Maties first team in 2012 and in 2013 represented South Africa as part of the u21 team at the Junior World Cup in Germany. In 2014 she made her senior national debut as part of the South African ladies team playing against Holland.
Four years later, Christie represented South Africa at the Commonwealth Games in Australia and the World Cup in England and in 2019 she captained the South African Squad for the FIH Hockey Series Final in Valencia.
Christie started playing hockey when she was eight, following in the footsteps of her older brothers and cousins. By Grade 10 she knew that hockey was her “one true love when it came to sport". In Grade 11, while attending a Maties Hockey Camp at SU, she fell in love with the university.
She enrolled for a BSc degree in 2011, then changed to a BSc in Chemistry and Polymer Science. She lived in Sonop residence before moving in with friends, but even with a hectic training schedule, Christie says she enjoyed the social side of student life too.
While at SU, she was named the Maties Women's Hockey Player of the Year twice. In 2015, she graduated from SU with a Postgraduate Certificate in Education and now teaches Physical Science at Randpark High School in Johannesburg, where she once was a pupil herself.
Christie believes that it is important to be 100% present in whatever you are doing if you want to be the best – be it on the field, when relaxing, or spending time with family and friends. It's advice she would give to anyone who wants to be a professional athlete.
It is this philosophy that has seen her succeed over the years, however, she is aware that her success is not only due to her own efforts.
“I am really fortunate to have support systems around me at Randpark High. The headmaster is very supportive and proud of what I've achieved, while the Science Department takes off a lot of the teaching pressure when I am away. My husband Andrew has always been supportive during my sports career and picks up all the balls that I drop along the way. I am very fortunate to have people who support me in both my loves – my sports and my teaching career."
- Unfortunately our SA Women's Hockey team in Tokyo was beaten by India over the weekend.