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The dark days of Hollywood

Author: Daniel Lane
Date: 22/04/2007
Words: 959
Source: SHD
          Publication: Sun Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 85
There has been more pain than fame recently for this Hockeyroos star, Daniel Lane writes.

KATE Hollywood might have thought being bombarded with compliments by male admirers during the Champions Trophy campaign in Argentina last year was a pain, but the ache in the Hockeyroo's lower legs was far worse.

Hollywood, one of the bright young lights of Australian hockey, realised something was really wrong during the national team's tour of France in November, when she couldn't run because of crippling pain in her lower legs.

The problem flared in Argentina, possibly because of the amount of sidestepping the 20-year-old and her teammates employed to avoid would-be South American suitors on excursions to the laundromat or supermarket.

She mistakenly self-diagnosed the problem as a severe case of shin splints and soldiered on.

It wasn't until Hollywood returned to Sydney from France that stunned doctors said it should have been impossible for her to walk because she had compartment syndrome, a condition that occurs when the muscles grow too big for the space allocated to them in the body.

It is as serious a problem as it is painful. The dramatically reduced blood supply the condition causes can cause the muscle to die; in severe cases, it can lead to amputation.

In 1994, Sydney Swans rover Jamie Lawson had to retire after a broken leg led to compartment syndrome. Former Hockeyroos captain and triple Olympic gold medallist Rechelle Hawkes had the problem early in her career.

"When I did the compartment pressure test the staff asked if I was trying to impress them by not complaining about how much pain I was in," Hollywood says. "The reading was pretty high.

"I wasn't trying to impress anyone. I think you just get used to pain."

Hollywood is slowly recovering after having surgery nine weeks ago. she described as a "breakthrough" being able to jog on the spot during the week after two months of inactivity, and she was counting down the days until she could again mix it with the best.

Hollywood, who has made 46 international appearances, wants to help the Hockeyroos recapture the aura that allowed previous teams to win three Olympic gold medals, two World Cups, six championship trophies and two Commonwealth Games gold medals.

"When I was first picked for the Hockeyroos I was in shock," she says. "I was sitting in the same room as the players I'd admired. When we trained - and it was the hardest training I've ever done because of the intensity and skill level - I was overwhelmed.

"I don't take selection in the team for granted. No one is guaranteed a place in the side. The selectors have started to pick players from the development team to give them experience so that means there is pressure on everyone to work hard and to perform.

"We are constantly aware we are responsible for our actions. We have to be respectful and we have to have a class about us . . . that's the team guideline and we follow it."

By playing for the Hockeyroos, Hollywood fulfilled a prediction she made to her brother Thomas when she was 10 and had a poster of the 1996 Olympic gold-medal winning team on her bedroom wall.

"I said I'd be on the poster like that one day and he just said, 'Oh yeah, great'," she says. "But when I appeared on the poster of the Commonwealth Games team after we won the gold in Melbourne last year, Thomas said he was proud I'd done it."

Some had earmarked her for stardom when she was only three years old and played backyard hockey against members of her father's St George first-grade team. She stopped one player in his tracks with a move that was unheard of at the time.

Andre Cabral, now an Australian over-40s player, recalls Hollywood getting down low to complete a tackle. That in itself was impressive, but he was amazed by how well she controlled her stick.

"Back then everyone held the stick upright, but somehow - at age three - Kate realised she could get more control of the ball if she flattened her stick on the ball instead of relying on the head," Cabral says.

"It's a common tactic now, but I remember thinking at the time that this kid could be a star."

Her surname suggests she should be a star. While the girl who captained a representative Sydney boys team admitted the moniker ensured media attention, she said she liked to have fun with it.

"I think it has Irish origins, 'holly on wood' or something like that," she says. "But what I like to sometimes tell people is that my great-great-great uncle owned Hollywood and we're worth millions. Some people believe it!"

Hollywood's sights are set on something money can't buy, though - an Olympic medal at the Beijing Games next year.

As part of her build-up she has moved to Perth to train at the WA Institute of Sport, where she'll be put through hockey-specific drills and training.

The Hockeyroos start their charge towards the Olympics next month with a four-Test series against New Zealand at Dunedin.

They will then take on Japan in a six-Test series in Australia before travelling to China in August for an Olympic test event.

Hollywood describes the next 15 months as crucial to her Olympic dream, but says she is prepared to deal with an ailment even worse than compartment syndrome.

"I know homesickness will set in," she says. "It will be hard - really hard - but it's part of the price to fulfil my dream."

 
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