It’s been a whirlwind month for goalkeeper Gabi Palm. After an unexpected call-up to join the Aussie Stingers training squad in Canberra, the news that she had been selected to go to California with the Senior Squad for the FINA World League was an even bigger surprise.
We caught up with Gabi ahead of the Aussie Stingers camp in Sydney as the team prepares for the FINA Super League Finals in Shanghai, China, 6-11 June*
Firstly, congratulations on your Aussie Stingers debut! Talk us through your reaction to finding out you were off to California. “Thank you! It was so excited going into my first Senior camp and then to get selected, I was so excited, especially going on tour with a couple of other Queenslanders who were also making their debut.”
The FINA International World League Tournament featured teams from the USA, China, Japan, Kazakhstan and Canada who were all fighting for a place in the FINA Super League Finals. For the new coach and the team, the first hurdle was China.
Whilst Gabi did not start in the water, the game will always be special. “The first game we played against China, lining up and singing the national anthem, I had goosebumps, it was such an awesome feeling.” It was a tussle in the water as the new team found their rhythm and went on to win the game 13-6.
Gabi didn’t have to wait long to get her first start in the water and it would be against a tough Kazak team on Day Three. “It was my first start against Kazakhstan and it was such an awesome feeling. I was out there and just loving playing. Being able to play alongside some of the Olympians, to gain that experience, it was amazing.”
Facing different teams meant dealing with different styles of play and shots, which was a huge learning curve for the young goalie. “The thing I learnt was each country has a different style of water polo, so it’s really about being able to adapt to each game. For example, in the Japan game, they don’t have a strong Centre Forward Game, they are more about the outside shot. I needed to stay back on my line more as they were lobbing and had a lot of outside shots.”
She added, “I’ve just got to make sure I’m adjusting to the different types of games and shots, making sure that I’m controlling the defence and working with the team as well.”
Next on Gabi’s agenda is the upcoming Stingers camp in Sydney, Sunday, 21 May, and working hard to get selected for the FINA Super League Finals in Shanghai. “Being able to go away and dip my toe in the pool, it’s made me really hungry for it and cemented in my mind that this is what I really want to do. I’ve just got to make sure that I go down there at my best and pick up where I left off in the USA.”
Selection for the team heading to Shanghai will be made the following week but for Gabi, the camp will be another opportunity to learn from other goalies and the new coaching set-up. “Of course, I’m hoping to be selected but it’s also a learning experience, I know that I’m new to this. Sakis is a European coach, so I’m really going to focus when I’m in the water and in goal to be more explosive when I’m using my legs. With those higher and more experienced shots, I’ve got to make sure that I’m quick around the goal.”
No doubt we will be seeing more of Gabi in goal for the Aussie Stingers in the future. Best of luck in Sydney.
*Australia top Group B alongside Hungry, Canada and China. In Group A, the USA face Russia, Japan and the Netherlands.
Photo credit: Sam Stringer Photography