Serious Sisu: Lisa Walton

Hockey was a very formative sport for me during my school years, so when I heard I was meeting NZ Olympic hockey player Lisa Walton, I was intimidated.  As an ex-school age player, I fully understand the dedication, commitment and skill required to make national selection.  However, the reason I think Lisa has so much sisu is because of her ability to bounce back from a major setback.  It takes a lot of guts to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and try again.  For Lisa this setback was missing selection to the Sydney 2000 Olympics.  It took Lisa a few months to pick up a hockey stick again.  However, she pulled herself back from this setback and went on to represent New Zealand at the Athens Olympics four years later, scoring the golden goal!  

Please can you give us a brief introduction of yourself? 

Hello!  My name is Lisa Walton; I'm from New Zealand but currently live in Singapore and work in advertising technology.  I started playing hockey at primary school; it was one of many sports I played as a kid; I loved running around and getting dirty. I also played cricket and was the only girl in the school team.  I thoroughly enjoyed whacking cricket balls as far as I could. 

When do you think playing hockey went from being something fun to something with sisu?

I was selected in the New Zealand primary school team (under 13's), which is extremely competitive (if only for the parents). But I don't think hockey became serious until I was selected for the New Zealand Under 18 team at the age of 15.  During this period, I had the opportunity to play with some incredible players, who were older and stronger than me. Playing at such a high level meant I had to stop playing all the other sports I loved and focus on my hockey. 

What has been your greatest achievement?

I played in the New Zealand hockey team from 1998 to 2004 and earned 98 test caps.  I played in World Cups and Champion Trophy Tournaments around the world.  But my greatest achievement was playing at the Athens Olympics in 2004, it was an incredible experience.  At the Olympics, I scored a golden goal in extra time against Korea, which meant we qualified in the top six and retained all our national funding for the next few years. It was a spectacular team goal and the celebrations afterwards were amazing.

When you were playing competitively, what did a typical week look like for you?

Since we received additional sponsorship, we were able to focus full time on playing hockey. We trained on the hockey field twice a day focusing on skills, gameplay and speed work.  Although, hitting hockey balls at 6am on a frosty day in Christchurch, NZ is like hitting concrete!   We would go from the hockey turf to the gym to work on our mobility and strength, then to the swimming pool to do recovery sessions or the physiotherapist to be strapped to avoid or manage injuries.  


What attracted you to hockey?

I've always loved hockey; it's a super skilful game played at a fast pace.  I love being part of a team and of course I loved scoring goals.

What have you learned about yourself through competitive sport?

Luck favours the brave.  Be brave enough to believe in yourself because if you don't no one else will.  I also discovered I love being part of a positive team - collaboration is where the magic happens.  

What was the hardest challenge during your sporting career? 

I missed selection for the Sydney Olympics in 2000.   There were 18 of us on the squad and only 16 made it through to the Olympic team. I had wanted to go to the Olympics my whole life.  It had been my entire focus and dream. I was devastated.  

How did you overcome this challenge?

It took me a few months to want to play hockey again.  When I did return to the field, I injured myself seriously at training.  So, I decided to travel and I moved to London for work.  However, after a trip to Greece I realised I wasn't finished with hockey.  I decided to go back to NZ and trial for the Athens Olympic team, to see if I could achieve my dream. Walking into the Olympic Opening Ceremony wearing the Silver Fern on my chest was one of the proudest moments of my life. 


What piece of advice would you give to our young SisuGirls?

Have fun! Sport is about feeling good.  It is about being happy and spending time with your friends. Also, a little bit of competitive is not a bad thing!

What is something that you know now that you wish you knew when you were younger?

Don't take yourself too seriously.  

What makes you wake up each morning?

I love to travel and find new adventures!  We've trekked mountains, biked trails, sailed to deserted islands and explored new cultures.  I have also met some amazing new friends along the way.

What and who inspires you?

My Family! I love my niece and nephews who are hilarious so I'm sad that I live so far away from them. My dad is pretty awesome too, he might be in his 70's but he is hard to keep up with on a mountain bike!

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

As a young girl, I  always wanted to be better at sport, to make the best team and be the best player. I put a lot of pressure on myself. My coach told me "life doesn't happen as fast as you want, but always quicker than you realise" - I've found that to be true so many times.

Finally, who do you think has serious sisu?

Anna Lawrence - she was the captain of the New Zealand hockey team. She was a legend on the hockey pitch and a fearless leader, she still is.

Chloe Chick