Sports

Maple Ridge water polo player hits pool in France

Maple Ridge
Maple Ridge's Victoria Smith posed with a teammate, after winning The French Cup.
— image credit: Special to The TIMES

Victoria Smith’s life “has done a full 360,” as of late.

The water polo player, Garibaldi Secondary School 2011 graduate, and communications degree graduate at San Jose University (SJU), is currently in Europe, where she is playing in Lille, France, with the women’s female pro league water polo team.

“Honestly, I had no idea what to expect before coming here,” she said.

For Smith, a former captain of the silver medal-winning Canadian women’s youth water polo team at the Pan American Games, her experience in France came about somewhat unexpectedly.

Having finished her degree in the U.S., she returned to Maple Ridge with the intention of completing a graduate degree at UBC, and found a job at the Meadow Gardens Golf Club’s pro shop.

During this time, she was contacted by a sports agent representing a professional women’s polo team in Europe, who told her they had been watching her play during her time at SJU and “waiting for her to graduate.”

She made the move and the league began play in September, with Smith’s team going undefeated in the French women’s professional league.

In late November, they won the French championship game, by a score of 15-5.

“Playing in Europe is definitely different from Canadian play,” said Smith, who’s still in France.

“The game is a lot more aggressive and you have to adjust with the reffing immediately if you want a chance to continue on in the game.”

While North American play tends to rely more on speed, the game in Europe is more about strength, she added.

There’s been other adjustments out of the pool as well.

“The first month here was definitely a culture shock,” Smith recalled, specifically when it came to the language.

“I had some high school French classes, but nothing prepares you for actually having to use it fluently.”

The sole focus on water polo took some getting used to as well.

In university, she said, she had the sport, along with friends, her studies and a social life.

“In pro, it literally is your life and job. I eat, train, and sleep.”

To help keep her sane, she said, she’s also explored the city and checked out the European nightlife.

“I’ve become close with my teammates because they were the first people I met here in France, and who I spend every day with.”

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