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Zoe Wilson: I can't wait to see my grandparents again but knitting lessons on Facetime mean I can still keep in touch



Zoe Wilson in action for Ireland

Zoe Wilson in action for Ireland

©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Zoe Wilson in action for Ireland

We are asking our sporting personalities how they are dealing with action coming to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic and how it has affected their daily lives.

Today, we speak to Ireland hockey international Zoe Wilson (23), the youngest of the six Ulster players who came home from the 2018 World Cup in London with a silver medal.

Q How are you keeping?

A: I am keeping well, enjoying my time at home so far and playing my part in social distancing. I've really noticed in the last few weeks how close knit a family we are. Being unable to visit grandparents has been difficult but I am thankful we have FaceTime to keep in contact. Sport obviously plays a huge part in my life but this has put everything into context, family and health are more important.

Q How are you being affected?

A: I usually don't have a lot of spare time on my hands. This past year, I have been on placement with my alma mater, Ballyclare High School, in the Home Economics department, training with Ireland in preparation for the Olympics and coaching hockey at school and Randalstown. I am trying to fill the void by doing lots of jobs around the garden and house. We have a training schedule that has been adapted to allow us to continue home running and gym sessions.

Q How are you keeping fit?

A: I am lucky enough to have access to a large garden to run in and have been out exercising most days. I've made a make-shift gym in my garage and thankfully due to my coaching I have plenty of equipment to still be practising individual skills.

Q How are you keeping up morale, yours and the team's?

A: The Ireland women's hockey squad is a very motivated group of girls and there is daily input into our group chat that not only encourages everyone to keep training but also a lot of light-hearted banter going on, even from the staff! Training on your own when you are used to doing it with 25 other people can be challenging so team morale is very important.

I'm obviously hugely disappointed about the postponement of the Olympics but we have to take the positives in that we have a further 16 months of opportunity to not only become better individually but as a team. If we all get even 5% better in the next 16 months then the team will be in a brilliant place heading to Tokyo. At Randalstown, where I am player-coach, we have also been in good spirits. Our team has some NHS workers so we have been trying to send positive support to them as they are working in difficult conditions.


Zoe celebrates Olympic qualification after a play-off win over Canada

Zoe celebrates Olympic qualification after a play-off win over Canada

�INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Zoe celebrates Olympic qualification after a play-off win over Canada


Q Where are you drawing your personal strength from now?

A: I am taking virtual knitting lessons from my granny, who surprisingly is very good on FaceTime. It is something I have always wanted to learn but never had the time. It allows me to keep in contact with my granny too. My biggest accomplishment has been a headband so now I am moving onto a blanket, although not quite ready to go into production just yet!

Q Sports fans are staying at home, too. Can you recommend a book, box set or film they might like?

A: My favourite book is inspired and endorsed by Lady Mary Peters. 'Passing the torch: sportswomen who inspire' is about sportswomen who didn't let any obstacle get in their way of being successful. It provides an insight into their initial motivation, the highs and lows of competing which I can relate to, and the camaraderie engendered by being part of a team or squad which is also close to my heart.

Mary is such an inspiration to me as she not only won an Olympic gold medal but she showed such determination and dedication to train through really tough times in Northern Ireland.

The Mary Peters Trust has supported me as I progressed through junior age groups and continues to support me today. It gave me that extra edge of encouragement that I knew I had the support of an Olympic gold medallist.

For a box set, I would recommend the medical drama Grey's Anatomy - there are 357 episodes so that should keep you busy! I would also encourage everyone to knit, I love it and find it very therapeutic.

Q What life lessons are you learning from this?

A: This awful crisis has made me appreciate just how precious life really is.

Q When all this is over, what's the first thing you will do?

A: The first thing that I will do is go and see my grandparents. It's very hard not being able to see them in person even though we can still chat through FaceTime, it just isn't the same. I also cannot wait to get stuck back into training with my team-mates, hockey has given me so many amazing friends.

Q Your message to sports fans?

A: I would just ask everyone to all play their part and stay at home to help protect the NHS and save lives, unless it's absolutely necessary to have to go out. Also look after your family and obviously stay safe.

Belfast Telegraph