For an athlete in any sport, nothing comes close to the feeling of competing at the highest possible level. To represent one’s country in a World Cup is the pinnacle of most sporting stars’ lives, far beyond the wildest dreams of the average person.
But for one Kingston University Student this dream became a reality at the tender age of 18. Chloe Hunt, now 19 years of age and a second year Geography student, has a glint in her eye as she enjoys the glorious spring sunshine on the banks of the River Thames and looks back fondly on her appearances for Scotland in the 2009 Women’s Lacrosse World Cup.
“I was very fortunate to have a school that played lacrosse. They were really encouraging and we got to see some Scotland players train and I did the under 19 World Cup when I was 16. Then after that I was fast-tracked into the women’s squad to develop, and it kind of snowballed and I ended up playing the Women’s World Cup in 2009 out in Prague,” she said.
However, the tournament didn’t quite go to plan for Hunt or Scotland as they lost to Australia and twice to bitter rivals Wales on the way to finishing eighth overall.
Not long afterwards Chloe made the long journey down from Scotland to Kingston to start her degree and was persuaded to take up a new challenge, rowing for Kingston University Boat Club. Despite a successful and enjoyable year on the water, the lure of international competition has proved too much for her to resist and she is now delighted to be back in the Scotland squad for this year’s Home Internationals in Wales on April 15-17.
“I was definitely out of my league [at the World Cup] but it was a very fast learning curve. It was a really, really great learning experience and that’s why I wanted to come back to the sport because I feel I could do a better job. Back then I was very young and inexperienced and now I feel I can give it a much better stab,” she said.
Whilst the Home Internationals are the immediate focus, the Scotland goalkeeper cannot help but cast her mind forward already to 2013 and the opportunity to right the wrongs of 2009.
“The next one is in Canada in 2013, so that is being mentioned in the background to get people excited,” she said.
Hunt, who grew up in the small town of Findhorn in the North of Scotland and went to boarding school in Edinburgh, says she will be proud to represent her country again but concedes that the build-up to the tournament has been far from ideal for her side.
“We’ve just had our last trials weekend and only one of our three coaches was there, so I think our preparations have been pretty bad,” she said.
England are the reigning Home Internationals champions and although they will go into this year’s competition as firm favourites to retain their title, Hunt is confident that Scotland can tactically outmanoeuvre them and come out on top.
“Everyone knows the English game. It’s run and gun all day, but they are a strong squad. They are great athletes but they have one style of play so if you break that down, they find it very difficult to adapt. Their greatest strength is also their greatest vulnerability,” she said.
The England team benefits hugely from its centre of excellence (CENTEX), which develops young players from all over the country and provides a conveyor belt of talent for the national sides. This often gives them an organisational and a physical edge over their neighbours, but Hunt embraces the role of the underdog.
“When we are the underdog and when I am the underdog I perform better, maybe because of the want and need to do better and surprise people,” she said.
Wales will also be hoping to spring a surprise or two and make home advantage count as they take to the field at Haberdashers’ School in Monmouth. They lost to both England and Scotland in the Home Internationals last year, but did beat Scotland twice at the World Cup in Prague in 2009 and were overall winners of the European Championships in Finland in 2008. Hunt refuses to underestimate them.
“They are a good squad. They are not someone you can walk over or joke about. With Wales it is evenly fought tooth and nail. It is always the bloodiest and it is the one people come to watch because it does get dirty,” she said.
“They have recently just come back from a tour of the [United] States so they have just been playing with each other, so they will be quite on form and we will have to see what they bring on the day really.”
Hunt, who is going to America herself this summer to coach lacrosse to children, has been playing for West London Lacrosse Club this season alongside and against many of the England and Wales squads. She is hoping this will benefit her when she comes up against them this weekend.
“Playing with them helps and you get to understand how they play and what they like to do,” she said.
Chloe is also confident in Scotland’s leadership – under the vastly experienced attacker, Julia Rennie. Rennie who won her first cap all the way back in 2002 may provide the spark that is needed to inspire Scotland to victory.
“What is great about Julia Rennie is that she is such an unreadable player. She doesn’t know what she is doing herself half the time, so you can’t read her or defend her,” she said.
The Scotland team also contains a number of younger players who are developing and progressing quickly and Hunt is predicting success in the near future, hopefully starting with the 2011 Home Internationals.
“We’ve got a good core so it’s exciting and I’m hoping that in the next three or four years it’s really going to pick up and I think future hopes are very good,” she said.