She has just won a national track and field title, and perhaps broken a New Zealand javelin record into the bargain, but Abbey Moody’s true sporting love lies elsewhere.
The 15-year-old, who recently completed Year 11 at Marlborough Girls’ College, is one of those fortunate sportspeople who are able to excel at the top levels of more than one sport.
In early December she travelled to Wellington for the national secondary schools track and field champs and came away with a gold medal in the junior javelin.
She finished over 10 metres ahead of her nearest rival, her throw of 42.42m awaiting ratification as a new NZ record. She also came fifth in the discus, throwing a personal best of 34.11m.
That PB and pending record gave her a “four-peat”, having set new marks at MGC, Tasman, South Island and now national levels this season.
Previously this year Abbey underlined her burgeoning potential as a water polo player, her efforts as part of the MGC team earning her most valuable player awards at both the division two senior nationals and the under-16 division two nationals.
Asked to name her favoured sport, there is no hesitation.
“Water polo – that’s my passion. I’ve just been doing it longer and I want to go further with it. It’s a team sport and is growing all the time. My ultimate goal is to play for New Zealand.”
She is well on her way to that ambition, having been included in Water Polo NZ’s “Born 2004” squad which has been set up to prepare a group of athletes for the 2022 World Champs.
Abbey’s interest in water polo began when she was just 10 years of age, initially playing flipperball for a Bohally team in the 2m pool.
“That was such a fun team,” she recalls, “then I started playing for Marlborough Girls’ and just went on from there.
“[Water polo] was just different to most sports … so much fun and you got to meet new people. Physically it’s a full-body workout and you have to be switched on mentally as well … it’s quite a strong sport, you feel strong in the water and when you shoot a goal or steal the ball it’s just an amazing feeling.”
She has also set athletics goals, one of which was a strong showing at the NZ schools champs, which she can certainly tick off.
Her record-breaking throw, Abbey’s first of the competition, followed some patchy training form, but she said her sport was all about what happens on the day. “With the first throw, if it flies, it flies, you’ve just got to see how it goes,” she suggested.
Not a fan of running, Abbey admits she has always been keen on “throwing things”, which led her into the field side of track and field.
“The first time I threw a javelin was in year nine at the MGC athletics and I think I threw it 16 metres,” she recalled.
“I came fourth that day but there was another girl there – Eleri James-Sitters – who threw it about 32 metres and I was amazed with the way the javelin just flew through the air … how much power she had … it’s sort of a similar motion to throwing in water polo.”
After expressing an interest on improving her javelin technique Abbey was put into contact with local coach Ian Carter who offered his help and has had a major influence on her career so far.
“He drives an hour into Blenheim and an hour home for our sessions, which are usually three times a week … and it’s all voluntary. He’s so passionate about the sport.”
Ian is not the only one sacrificing his time to further Abbey’s career, with her Picton-based parents Felicity Gardiner and Richard Moody often having to get up at 5am to drive her into Blenheim for gym then pool sessions.
She also mentioned the input of her water polo coach, Alistair Keay, who does a lot of research and is continually updating his knowledge of the sport. “He did a lot for the MGC team both this year and last year too.”
Abbey resides in Picton, where she attended Waikawa Bay School and Queen Charlotte College, in years 7-8, but faces a change of scene in 2020, having decided to attend St Cuthbert’s College in Auckland for the final stages of her secondary education.
The shift north is mainly water polo-inspired, says Abbey, with a higher level of competition available there and the national coach, Oliver Gibb, being based at the 1300-student strong private school.
Wherever the multi-talented youngster plays her sport she will be seeking that feeling that makes it all worthwhile, a feeling she knows well and wants more of.
“When you just hit it right and everything feels so easy.
“When you take the shot or you throw the javelin and it makes you happy and everyone else happy … it’s just the best feeling, so different to succeeding in other areas, knowing that hard work does pay off in the end.
“That keeps you motivated.”