Making a splash

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:27 PM ET

John Csikos, with a keen eye for talent, saw his daughter Emily developing a high-performance desire years ago. Like any good coach, he tried to nurture that determination. He tried to pass along all his knowledge about water polo, even when Emily wasn't sure that's the sport she would choose.

"She's always been a very serious athlete," John said yesterday at the Talisman Centre, where Emily is a key component of his Calgary Renegades team.

"Even when she was a 10-year-old playing basketball in the community, she would hate it when the coach would say 'nice try' when she would make a mistake.

"She couldn't understand it. She's always been very competitive. You can see it all the way through."

Now, father is watching daughter excel in his sport.

John is a former men's national team coach and he still holds the same job for the Renegades and their male faction, the Torpedo.

Although he was always heavily involved in the sport, John didn't force Emily or older daughter Julie -- also a Renegade -- into the water.

Instead, he set up a sport school at Southland Leisure Centre and let the girls play basketball, volleyball, soccer and water polo. It just so happened Emily had skill.

She still plays volleyball with the Henry Wise Wood Warriors but the choice was made to pursue a spot on the Canadian national junior water polo team.

"Last year, when I got invited to join the volleyball team, I would have had to miss some big water polo tournaments for volleyball tournaments," said Emily. "But I thought this would be my best chance to go the furthest."

Emily will turn 17 in July but she's already made waves to reach her goal.

Along with Renegades teammates Brooke Zimmerman and goalie Ellen Rafferty, Emily was invited to a senior training camp in Hawaii recently.

There was little time to soak up the sun as Csikos and her mates were exposed to the rigorous training needed to compete at the highest level.

While she was the youngest there, Csikos found she could compete against NCAA schools with players up to seven years her senior.

"It was really intimidating at first," Csikos said. "Eventually, I started to loosen up and started to feel good.

"It was very hard for me. There was lots of dry land and weights. We could go to the beach between practices but I was mostly tired so I would go sleep."

This weekend's Canadian National Water Polo League crossover event is also important for Csikos's development.

Most of the veteran Renegades are either playing professionally in Europe or at university in the U.S.

So Csikos, Zimmerman and Rafferty will be leaned on to qualify the Renegades for the Tier 1 tournament later this month. First Csikos is off the Mexico City for the World Aquatic Championships qualifications Wednesday and her first taste of senior international competition.

All of this within a span of a couple months for the Grade 11 student.

"I perform well under pressure," she said. "It does help a little bit.

"But it's hitting me now that I could go somewhere with this."


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