Hazel Musgrove battled illness to achieve London 2012 dream
IT is against all the odds that Hazel Musgrove will make history when she enters the pool with her Great Britain teammates for their London 2012 opening water polo fixture on July 30.
Not simply due to the intense competition she faced to survive the cut from 20 full-time professional players to the 13 squad members who will become Team GB’s first ever women’s water polo team at an Olympics.
But because of two medical conditions that almost cut her sporting career tragically short.
“When I was younger I got idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) which is when you have very low platelets in your blood,” said the 23-year-old from Appleton.
“I thought I would have to stop training or doing any sort of sport at all.
“But I managed to get over that and felt very lucky that I was able to compete again.
“Then last year I suffered another setback when I developed rheumatoid arthritis.
“I have done very well, with a huge amount of help from doctors and coaches, to get back to full training.
“It is extremely difficult to keep on top of it and still perform and I was not sure how I would be able to cope with the medication and everything, but the doctors have been really helpful and it is almost like I don’t have it anymore.”
It is a mark of Musgrove’s determination and hard work that she has been able to overcome the intense pain in her joints and compete at the sport’s highest level.
But she readily admits that without the help of the people closest to her, her Olympic dream would have died months ago.
“It has been a lot of hard work and trying to stay positive, knowing that I wasn’t going to let it stop me,” she said.
“It was only the help of my friends and family that got me through. I needed their support and they really helped me.
“It was also important to remember that I really wanted it.
“The illness made me realise even more how much I wanted to be there, so when I came so close to not being able to carry on it makes it all the sweeter now.
“I cannot tell you how happy I am to be here and involved.”
You need to be tough to play centre back in a rough sport like water polo, where the players attempt to secure the ball by any means necessary.
So Musgrove’s battle with illness is a good indication that she will be ready to give her all when it comes to competing against Europe’s elite teams at the Olympic Park.
For GB’s water polo team leader Joanna Wray, that bodes well for both Musgrove and Team GB.
“She has had a really tough time and she has had to be a very strong character in order to get through it,” she said.
“She has quite a rare condition and we have gone through quite a lot of different medications to ensure she can train without the pain.
“It shows the kind of person you need to be to be an elite athlete and Hazel is a great role model for everyone.”