Waterpolo: Kiwi Rebecca Parkes out for Olympic gold with Hungary

Kiwi waterpolo player Rebecca Parkes always knew she would compete at the Olympic Games, but with the New Zealand women's team ranked outside the world's top 10, that goal seemed unrealistic. 

Seven years ago, Parkes made the brave call to move to Hungary and against the odds, the Mt Maunganui girl made it to the top.

The 26-year-old is now an integral part of the fourth-ranked Hungary side in their quest for Olympic gold.

Thousands of miles from home in the small city of Eger, Parkes knows her sacrifice is all worth it, after making it to the big time of professional waterpolo. 

"As a little kid, I wanted to go to the Olympics in any sport," Parkes says. "It didn't matter what, I just wanted to go."  

Waterpolo is a huge deal in Hungary, so making the Olympic team is a remarkable achievement. 

"An NZ waterpolo player in Hungary is like a Hungarian rugby player coming to New Zealand and making it to the All Blacks," she says.  

The achievement is not lost on Hungarian coach Attila Biro, who proudly boasts the Kiwi as one of the best centre-forwards in Europe.

"Hopefully, after the Olympic Games in Tokyo, I will be able to say she is one of the best centre-forwards in the world," Biro says. 

Parkes attributes much of her success to where it all began back down in New Zealand. 

"New Zealand waterpolo definitely got me to where I am today, Parkes says.

Parkes is referring to the strong school and club programmes, led by passionate administrators, including Auckland's St Cuthberts College coach Oliver Gibb.

With New Zealand well down the waterpolo world rankings at 18, Gibbs believes the 2032 Olympics is New Zealand's golden ticket to the world stage. 

"With Brisbane being the frontrunner to have it, we would take the Oceania spot," Gibb says. "I know New Zealand waterpolo will already be thinking of that, and with the players, the coaching and the structures we have here, 100 percent we can do it."

Biro - who was the New Zealand women's coach for three years until 2015 -  knows more is needed, if New Zealand wants to achieve that goal. 

"A little bit more money and a few more professional leagues," Biro says.

And while Parkes stands proud as a Hungarian, at heart, she will always be a New Zealander.

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