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Cape Town – Towards the end of 2012, the sporting world had its eyes on Barcelona and Argentina soccer superstar Lionel Messi as he broke the world record for most goals scored in a calendar year.
Now, in 2013, another goal-scoring phenomenon has made news on the world sporting stage in the form of South African hockey superstar Pietie Coetzee.
After scoring a brace against Ghana on Tuesday, the 34-year-old became the first player in hockey history to reach 250 international career goals.
“I never thought of breaking records when I started playing. All I wanted to do was play the game. I did not even think that breaking this record was a possibility.”
She went on to extend that record on Thursday when she scored all three of South Africa’s goals in their 3-2 victory over Belgium, and she currently tops the all-time scoring charts with 253 goals in just 256 appearances.
The forward has provided a major goal threat from penalty corners throughout her career and is able to impose herself in matches.
Meanwhile, she also motivates younger players in the squad with her never-say-die attitude.
Coetzee broke the all-time record in 2011 when she surpassed Russian player Natella Krasnikova, whose record of 220 goals was set 35 years ago.
That record has put Coetzee among the country’s biggest sporting names, alongside the likes of Protea all-rounder Jacques Kallis, South Africa’s leading run-scorer in Test cricket, and Springbok rugby winger Bryan Habana, who holds the record for most Test tries by a South African.
Coetzee says: “It’s a very special achievement to have reached, yet it has been more special to be part of this current team. The team is really an exciting prospect at the moment and I am just glad to be able to contribute to the team’s success.”
The forward named a number of factors behind her success, but believes her drive for success has been the main one.
The Bloemfontein goal-scoring machine says: “I truly feel blessed to have played this sport and to have contributed so much to it.
“However, that has not stopped me from wanting more and I am working harder to contribute more.”
She says her passion and commitment to South Africa as well to the sport of hockey have also been key contributors to her long and successful career.
Coetzee made her international debut at the age of 16 while in Grade 11 at Oranje Meisieskool in Bloemfontein.
“I got into hockey through my school. What really drew me to the sport was the action-packed way the game was played. I enjoyed training and also the fact that I could train and play with my friends.”
She went on to represent her country until she decided to retire at age 27, with an impressive record of 191 goals in 193 Test matches. But Coetzee would return five years later and showed that she hadn’t missed a beat by scoring 35 goals in as many Test matches.
“Hockey is not a professional sport in South Africa and somewhere down the line I lost the motivation and energy to play. In 2010, the coach asked me if I would like to consider getting back. At first I had to lose a lot of weight to get fitter, and had to do a lot of running.”
Coetzee’s return has been a major boost for the team, who plan to build around the forward’s brilliant goal-scoring abilities.
“The only thing I want to do is score every game. I never think of ending the season with 300 goals or something like that. I just want to score every game, because that will help my team win.”
During her retirement Coetzee studied sports medicine at University of Johannesburg.
After her studies, Coetzee became a paramedic and opened 15 hockey clinics countrywide.
“A few years ago, I started my own sporting clinics and there are a few across the country. So, that has kept me busy outside of playing for the national side.”
In her 13 years of representing South Africa, Coetzee has played in both the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.
Coetzee aims to extend her record in ongoing series of international fixtures, such as in Azerbaijan and Austria, and then in a more demanding schedule, which includes Holland, England and Australia next month.
Away from the hockey field, Coetzee enjoys spending time with her family and her dog.
“I have a very close-knit family and an absolutely awesome dog. So, with all of that, I am kept fairly busy.”
Opposition defenders might say the same about South Africa’s goal-scoring marvel. – Weekend Argus