A total of 24 players will be featured in the 2019 SEA Games with Pavinya Ramachandran being the youngest in the female team.- NSTP/Owee Ah Chun

Armed with a stick, snorkel and a pair of flippers, Pavinya Ramachandran, 18, is all set to make the country proud at the upcoming Philippines Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

Pavinya, a Financial Engineering foundation student at Multimedia University (MMU), Cyberjaya is making a debut with the national team in underwater hockey for the SEA Games.

The game, although obscure to many, originated in the 1950s and only been played in Malaysia for the last three years. It was invented by the British Navy in order to keep their divers in shape and to improve their efficiency under water.

Also known as octopush, the sport intertwines disciplines from both ice hockey and swimming that requires players to successfully hit a two-kilogram puck into the opponent’s goal while holding their breath.

On top of snorkels and flippers, players are also required to put on masks, ear protectors, fins and gloves.

A total of 24 players will be featured in the 2019 SEA Games with Pavinya being the youngest in the female team.

For Pavinya, what started as a casual try-out turned into her passion as she was shortlisted to compete in the biennial games.

“I have been swimming as early as I was six. Early this year, I stopped swimming competitively and started to work as a coach at a swimming academy. Only then I was introduced to underwater hockey and decided to give it a try.

“I ended up liking it a lot as I am already comfortable with swimming.”

She added that the most important aspect of the game is to have a profound understanding of each player’s play other than the ability to hold breath for extended periods of time.

“Since the game is held at the bottom of a swimming pool, there is no means of communication. Hence, our positioning is very important. Mutual understanding results in a strong team not just a strong solo player,” she said.

Everyday training focuses on stamina building and puck handling skills. The team also has three personal coaches who train them in fitness, strength and underwater endurance, she added.

“Hopefully during the SEA Games, the team will be able to do well and get better recognition since the sport is relatively new in Malaysia,” said Pavinya, adding that she hopes to pursue playing underwater hockey professionally.

With up to 24 hours a week dedicated to sports, Pavinya has been juggling athletics on top of academic responsibilities.

She added that the key to balancing college and sport is good time management.

“I have tight schedules for both studying and sports practices. However, nothing is too hard if you put mind and soul into it.

“If I have an assignment due in a few days, I will get together with my friends and finish the task no matter how late it gets,” said Pavinya.