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October 13, 2011
FLTLT Stewart Parkinson
returned from the world
underwater hockey cham-
pionships in Portugal with
his second gold medal.
John Martin reports.
YOU would expect an underwa-
ter hockey world champion to
be able to hold his breath for a
long time -- and FLTLT Stew-
art Parkinson does not disappoint.
At 33, he's been holding his breath
often for a long, long time.
FLTLT Parkinson has represented
Australia at the elite level since 1996,
playing in Australia's winning team at
the world championships in 2000 and
backing up more than a decade later
with another gold medal at the 2011
world championships in Portugal in
For the record, the first time he held
his breath for 4½ minutes -- yes 4½
minutes -- was when he was 21 as part
of a medical study conducted on six or
seven of his underwater hockey team-
It's a neat party trick but he says
"it hurts like hell" and he wasn't doing
anything remotely strenuous at the time.
In the hurly burly of a game, he
says five to 20 seconds of breath-hold
is more the go.
"Being able to go as hard as you can
while staying underwater for as long as
you can is a necessity but it is always
a balance between how long you stay
down and how much time you need to
recover on the surface before getting
back on the bottom," he says.
Nevertheless, practising hold-
ing his breath is something that goes
hand-in-hand with much of his train-
ing. And that is strenuous.
FLTLT Parkinson, who works
for Headquarters Surveillance and
Response Group at RAAF Base
Williamtown, drives from Newcastle
to Sydney two times a week to play.
He does five hard swim sessions
(3km to 5km) each week, much of
that underwater. And then there are
recovery swims, up to four gym ses-
sions a week and cross training such
as running or riding his bike.
Underwater hockey probably needs
some explanation for most of us.
Each match lasts for half an hour
and players wear masks, snorkels and
fins as well as donning silicone gloves
to protect their hands. They use a 30cm
hockey stick to push a 1.5kg lead puck
into the goals at either end of a 25m
court. There are six people on each team
in the water at any one time and each
team has four bench players who are
constantly subbed into the game, bring-
ing tactics heavily into play.
FLTLT Parkinson was a 12-year-
old high school student in Hobart
when he first tried this unusual sport
at a Come and Try day.
He loved pursuits like snorkelling
and free-diving so it was no great sur-
prise when he got into the game seri-
ously at 16. At 21, he found himself
in the pool playing for the Australian
elite men in the world championships.
FLTLT Parkinson did not play
another world championships until
2008 in Durban, South Africa.
Having dominated the sport until
2002, Australia went nine years without
winning a world championship gold
medal. So imagine the joy when
Australia beat South Africa 6-1 in
this year's final. It was the biggest
winning margin in a world champi-
onship final for more than 20 years.
And it gave FLTLT Parkinson an
interesting new perspective.
In 2000, FLTLT Parkinson was
the newbie in the team and looked to
the more experienced team-members
to lead the way.
This year he was one of the
experienced players, one of four still
playing from the 2000 team -- and
he felt an affinity with the youngest
member of the team, also 21 -- just
like he was back then.
"I felt more pressure than ever
before," he said.
"So it was fantastic to win."
Breathtaking achievement from a dual world champion
No. 1 AGAIN:
front left, with
in the world
he goals at
I felt more pres-
sure than ever
before. So it was
fantastic to win.
-- FLTLT Stewart
TWO RAAFies have their sights set on the World Cup
Asia paintball championships in Malaysia in November.
LAC Stephen Wadwell and LAC Alex Weston will
be part of the TAG Relentless team which will contest
the three-day event against 32 other teams (and a total of
129 across different divisions) on Langkawi Island.
It is the pinnacle event in this region.
In a world first, the event will be held indoors, which
will be a new experience for most.
But not for LAC Weston, of RAAF Base
Williamtown. His nearest venue in Newcastle happens
to be indoors.
It will be a new experience, though, for LAC
Wadwell, of HQJOC in Bungendore -- but both men
have been hard at training, not just for Malaysia but also
for the Australian Masters and State of Origin, which
will be held in early December.
TAG Relentless is coming equal second in its divi-
sion in the domestic Super 7 series.
LAC Wadwell is actually a member of another team,
the Thundercats, but he has been asked to make the trip
to the World Cup as a guest player in the team.
"I look forward to finally getting the chance to play
with Alex and his team as they are a great bunch of guys
and trained by a friend of mine who I know has taught
them well; well enough, I believe, to be serious con-
tenders here in Australia as well as in Malaysia," LAC
Pair off to World Cup
Asia paintball titles
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