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Volume 91, Issue 45

Wednesday, November 19, 1997



Armstrong makes waves towards gender equality

©Tom Baumgartner/Gazette
HEY GUYS, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS PRINCESS LEIA HEAD PIECE. Mustang Gloria Armstong has brought to the men's team both a talent for the game and some 70's sci-fi fashion sense.

By Ian Ross

Gazette Staff

Gloria Armstrong has failed to miss a single game in the Western men's water polo team schedule. No, she is not a die-hard fan nor a faithful girlfriend or parent – she is one of Western's biggest weapons in the pool.

A first-year kinesiology student, Armstrong is the only female to play for a men's water polo team. She is permitted by Ontario University Athletics regulations to play with other Mustang athletes in the men's division – a unique exception because Western is the only school in Ontario without a women's team.

Although the presence of a female athlete on this team is not unusual (Kara Nolan played for the team last season), head coach Charles Smith said Armstrong is the first woman to make an immediate impact with the team.

"The difference with Gloria is she is a starter and is usually one of the last players to be subbed for during the game," Smith said.

In her fifth year playing organized water polo, Armstrong has quickly developed enough raw talent to become a deadly weapon in the pool. A member of both the Canadian junior team and the senior "B" team, she quickly developed respect around the nation, although recently she considered throwing in the towel.

"At one point it had got to be too much – it wasn't a game anymore," she said. "I received my acceptance notice [to Western] 24 hours before I left for the Junior World Championships in Prague and I felt the coaches at Western wouldn't pressure me to play because there wasn't a women's team."

However, the championships proved to be one of the best tournaments of her career and after returning, she concluded that giving up now would be foolish.

"I went to the first practice and I still wasn't sure if I would play. I needed to see how the guys would react," Armstrong said. "Once I proved I could play with them they completely accepted me as a member of the team."

Western not only accepted the experienced Armstrong, who plays centre and defensive driver for the team, the Mustangs relied on her experience at higher levels of competition as the team headed into the playoffs last weekend in Ottawa.

"We couldn't have done as well without her," captain Brandon Lawrence said. "At the beginning of the season, I wasn't sure how she would hold up against other teams. Some teams tried to take advantage of her size and strength during the season, but she held her own – using technique and knowledge of the game."

Western won a provincial bronze medal, successfully completing Armstrong's first season at the university level and allowing her to set her sights on Olympic gold, since women's water polo will be officially recognized as an Olympic event in the year 2000 in Sydney, Australia.

Armstrong feels recognizing women's water polo is long overdue since men's water polo is the oldest team sport at the games.

"The chauvantisic attitude in Europe has prevented us from being recognized," she said. "They have an image of what women should be doing sports-wise and it doesn't include us."

With only three years left until this historic moment, Armstrong plans to gain more experience and improve on her game play to make the national team. Much of that development will come with the Mustangs, as the team continues to mature into one of the best in the province.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997