WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- She may not have played an NCAA intercollegiate game yet, but Indiana University freshman phenom Shae Fournier (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada/Grant Park) is already receiving notice on the international stage. The first-year is featured in a recent Winnipeg Free Press article on her international play as part of the Canadian Junior National Team.
The Manitoba High School Water Polo MVP in four consecutive seasons (2006-2009) where she earned the 2008 and 2009 Athlete of the Year award. She helped lead her team to Provincial Championships three years in a row (2007-2009) and was a member of the Canadian Junior National water polo team. A 2008 and 2010 Gold medalist at the Pan American Games who earned Best Defender honors in the Canadian Select League in 2009, Fournier also competed in the 2009 World Championships where Team Canada team finished fifth.
When Shae Fournier took up water polo seven years ago, she was just looking for something to keep her in the water after achieving all she could in swimming lessons.
It didn’t take her long, however, to realize she had fallen in love with the sport — and gotten pretty good at it, too.
"I did gymnastics, taekwondo, volleyball and track," said the 18-year-old St. Boniface native from her new home in Bloomington, Ind., where she is attending Indiana University on a water polo scholarship. "But after about a year of water polo I went full gear."
The physical nature of water polo appealed to Fournier, as did the team aspect. As an accomplished swimmer, she didn’t have the same struggles to simply stay above water that many newcomers must deal with.
"You could tell before she played that her personality was the type that she would take to the competition," said Dave Hill, Fournier’s coach with the Bushido club team.
"When I saw her play, I could tell that she’d excel at water polo. She’s a good swimmer, and just a natural athlete. When you tell her to do something, she usually masters it the first time."
By the time she was 15, Fournier tried out for and made the youth national team, which takes players as old as 18.
She represented Canada at the 2008 junior Pan Am championship in Brazil and the 2009 world junior championship in Siberia.
This summer, Fournier scored the winning goal for Canada in the gold-medal game against the U.S. in the Pan Am junior championship.
Fournier is quick to point out that no one knew her goal would eventually be the winner when it was scored — it wasn’t scored in the final seconds of a tie game — but Hill wasn’t surprised to hear that his protégé had come through in a key moment for Canada.
"Shae rises to the challenge at all times," he said. "If you put her with an older, better or stronger team, she’ll pick one person near the top and say, ‘That’s who I’m going to play equal to.’
"Of course, she has ice water in her veins. She’ll shoot at a crucial time without panicking. She’s always wanted to do that."
Listening to her analyze her own game, it’s no surprise that Fournier plans to major in psychology at IU.
"I’m not a player that gets stressed out in big moments," said the Grant Park High School graduate. "I see the importance of them, but I’m not thinking about that when I’m shooting. I treat it like the rest of the game."
Fournier has been training hard for her first year of Big Ten water polo, which starts in January, and is hoping the high level of competition makes her an even better player for her country.
She has one more year of junior eligibility, and is hoping to help Canada improve on its fifth-place finish in Siberia at the next world junior championship.
After that, the next step is the Olympic team. Fournier isn’t expecting to make the 2012 roster, but gives herself an outside chance.
"It’s not something I’d write off," she said. "I’m always going to try my best, but I’m geared for 2016."