Pan Am games this summer, Rio next?

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When the 2016 Summer Olympics roll around, the fields of Rio de Janeiro will perhaps be painted black and gold. Stephanie Snyder, who was awarded female athlete of the year after a stellar season with the Warriors, has been chosen to possibly represent Canada in the Olympic field hockey division.</p>

In 2014, Snyder’s strong game gained the attention of the national field hockey program, and as a result, she was selected to train with Team Canada out west. However, bigger things may be in store for Snyder.

“I first got picked for the Olympics when I was at Nationals two seasons ago,” Snyder said. “While we were in Victoria for the tournament, the coach asked me to stay out there for a week and train with the team, and after that, I was named to the squad.

“Right now, there’s a squad of 27, and in the final draft 16 of us will get picked for the Olympics. So the squad is constantly changing.”

In July, the squad will be participating in the Pan Am event in Toronto, which will determine who qualifies for Rio and will join the team next spring to resume training.

Among two graduates and two current players from U of T, a Guelph graduate, and several others from B.C. Snyder is the only player from UW, which she has used to her advantage.

“Being on the UW team has taught me so much about confidence and composure,” Snyder said. “In high school, it’s a lot different — there’s not nearly as much competition. The university has made sure that I’m 100 per cent committed to my goals, especially in an athletic aspect.”

Becoming female athlete of the year could not have been easy, but was surely very gratifying from an athletic perspective. Snyder talked about her journey, including being named athlete of the year.

“I guess, starting out, I always wanted to have an impact on the team. My first and second year, I found that I wasn’t putting in 100 per cent. My third year, we had a huge turnover in seniors that left so I had to take more of a leadership role. I think that year was really when I found my place not only on the team but also in the league. We also had a coaching change after the third year, which I think for me ended up being a very positive thing. The new coach found a way to motivate me and it really pushed me to a whole new level.”

Snyder will be returning to UW in the fall and then will head to Vancouver after Christmas to train at the Richmond Oval. The Oval — a venue constructed for the 2010 Olympics — now serves as a facility for Olympic training and competitions.

“We don’t have anything confirmed yet,” Snyder said, “but we’d definitely be going all over to play some of the other teams that will be playing in the Olympics. It would probably be a very busy year of travel.”

Snyder intends to compete at the 2020 Olympics, which is set to take place in Tokyo. After that, she plans to pursue a career in sports marketing.

“I also want to try and make sure that the connections I have from the nationals team [help me] get an opportunity in the sports industry,” Snyder said.

“I think it’s all very exciting,” Snyder said about the possibility of representing Canada at the Summer Games. “I know one of the most exciting moments will be the opening ceremony, just being on the field with all the other athletes. I know that would be an amazing experience. It’s always an honour to wear the Maple Leaf on your jersey but I think the Olympics would just take that to a whole new level.”

With the Pan Am team being announced near the end of June and the event itself coming up in July, the Olympic team won’t be announced until next summer, leaving a whole year for Snyder and the other field hockey athletes to train and improve.

“I really want to credit my family. The coaches this past year have been phenomenal. They pushed me way further than I thought I could’ve been pushed. Thanks to the school for all the support. It’s a very exciting experience and I’m glad that I get to represent UW as I do it.”

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