When Pat Oaten, head coach of the Canadian senior women’s water polo team, called Alexa Tielmann last week to invite her to join his squad for a major international tournament in China, she was utterly stunned.
She is, after all, just 17 years old – still working on finishing off her Grade 12 studies at Abbotsford’s Yale Secondary.
So as she processed the invitation to play in the FINA Women’s World League Super Final, Tielmann’s initial response was indicative of her youth.
“I said I’d have to ask my mom,” Tielmann related with a chuckle. “But they (my parents) were ecstatic to hear the national team was that interested in me.”
Tielmann’s status as a phenom was already well-established. Last year, she became the first Canadian to secure a women’s water polo scholarship from UCLA, a powerhouse program which has won seven NCAA championships in the past 12 seasons. Her freshman year begins in September.
But as far as national team possibilities go, Tielmann’s focus was on earning selection for the Canadian under-20 team which will participate in the World Junior Championships in Perth, Australia in December of this year.
A senior team call-up wasn’t supposed to be in play, at least not so soon, but a stellar performance at the U18 club nationals in Kamloops earlier this month put her on the radar. Tielmann led the tournament with 21 goals in five games – the second-best scorer had 14 goals – as her Fraser Valley Water Polo Club won the bronze medal. The call from Oaten came shortly thereafter.
Tielmann flew to Montreal on Friday to train with Team Canada, and the squad departs for Changsu, China on May 26. The top two teams in the eight-nation tourney earn automatic berths to the 2013 World Championships.
“I’m sure it will be tough,” Tielmann said, looking ahead to the World League finals. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen. But I’m excited.”