by Derek Cassoff
Looking for the hardest-working students on campus? Check out the swimming pool at the Centre Claude Robillard athletic complex at 6:30 in the morning.
At a time when most of us are still snuggled comfortably under our blankets, four Concordia students, Kimberley Campbell, Waneek Horn-Miller, Renée Sauriol and Kaliya Young, are usually well into another session of heavy training -- tossing medicine balls, swimming laps and working out on exercise machines. Throw in some time studying videotape of their past performances, and you begin to get some idea as to what goes into becoming an elite water polo player.
This dedicated quartet wouldn't have it any other way, for these are special times in women's water polo. The sport will make its Olympic debut next year, and the Canadian women, a dominant force in water polo for three decades, are preparing to qualify for one of just six berths at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
They must finish ahead of the United States at the FINA Cup in Winnipeg next May in order to gain the single North American slot available.
"The Olympics are the ultimate goal, the best that you can do in any sport," said Horn-Miller, a fourth-year Political Science student from Kahnawake and co-captain of the national team.
"[Water polo] has been such an important part of our lives for so many years that we want to take it to the highest point, the ultimate level," added Sauriol, a fourth-year Communication Studies student from Hull.
Together with Campbell, a 22-year-old Building Engineering student from Calgary, and Young, a 22-year-old Sociology major from Vancouver, the foursome and 16 other members of the water polo program gather five times a week, including Saturdays, for early-morning workouts. They also practise two evenings a week and spend time on their own with an athletic therapist and a sport psychologist.
"To succeed at water polo, you need a tremendous amount of dedication. Water polo athletes are among the most physically fit athletes in the world," said David Hart, director of Canada's Olympic water polo program and an assistant coach on the women's national team. "But water polo is still a minor sport in Canada. If the girls are willing to put the time and effort into it, the chances of them going far are that much greater."
If the women have one regret, it's that the gruelling schedule has taken its toll on their grades. In short, you won't find any of them on the Dean's List come the end of the term.
However, Sauriol says it's a temporary situation that won't reflect poorly on their curriculum vita. "If anything," she said, "our years on the water polo team will look really good on a résumé. It shows that you can deal with pressure and manage your time well. Maybe we don't get the best grades because we can't dedicate all of our efforts to school -- but in the end, we'll all get our degrees."
The women say that all of their sacrifices will have been worth it if they make it to Sydney and come home with medals around their necks.
"Obviously, we're doing this for ourselves first, but we're also doing this for all of the young female athletes out there," said Horn-Miller. "Right now, sports is all about men getting paid a lot of money, but if we do well, it will hopefully show other women that they, too, can make a living playing sports."
Waneek Horn-Miller, Renée Sauriol, Kimberley Campbell and