These are the words of the Johannesburg-based Sanani Mangisa as the South Africa women’s hockey team goalkeeper reflects on the road least envied by elite international athletes.
The Mthatha-born Mangisa, now playing for Southern Gauteng, played for Tuks and Northern Blues for half-a-dozen years while studying in Pretoria. However, she suffered a career-threatening Achilles tendon tear last year that would have floored most athletes for good. But she wasn’t done yet.
“I was motivated by the possibility of playing in my first World Cup. Time was not on my side then as I had roughly four months to work on getting match-fit again,” says Mangisa. “Backed by a super medical and rehab team, it was a challenge I accepted.
The rehab timeline after Achilles tendon surgery is usually four to six months, says Mangisa, whose two main goals were to make the team for the Champions Challenge in Glasgow and the World Cup thereafter. And make it she did, being part of the SA team that won the bronze medal on May 4 in the Scottish city before selection for the World Cup team two days later.
Vuyisanani “Sanani” Mangisa, of sharp intellect, knows about dark, lonely places. Selected when barely out of her teens for the Beijing 2008 Olympics, as understudy to Mariette Rix, post-Beijing she spent considerable time in the wilderness before regaining her place as the No 2 keeper in the SA team through sheer hard work on and off the pitch.
A travelling reserve to Rix for the London 2012 Olympics, the immediate retirement of the Western Province goalkeeper gave Mangisa the opportunity to shine on the international stage – and shine she did with a number of unofficial player-of-the-match performances against the world’s best penalty corner drag-flickers and strikers.
Then the injury. But that’s in the past now and Mangisa is busy with the SA team as they enter their final phase of training just a week ahead of their opening game in The Hague on June 1 against defending World Cup champions Argentina.
“The initial camp phase was at Almeerse Hockey Club and we stayed in Amsterdam. It has been good preparation for our team,” says Mangisa from the tournament hotel yesterday, adding that the SA team are looking to fine-tune some things ahead of the World Cup.
“It’s been nice to train on both the Kyocera and Greenfields stadiums’ turfs and get a feel of them,” says Mangisa, adding that the training has been very specific with a focus on identified areas of play.
SA goalkeeper coach and team logistics planner Sheldon Rostron has plenty of time for Mangisa, at 1,62 m below average in height for the modern-day goalkeeper, but her agility and lightness of step makes her exceptionally mobile in the six-yard area, just in front of the goals.
“Sanani has shown a lot of courage, she is a fighter and it’s taken a whole lot of character, she put in a lot of hard work.”