Paige Hauschild has had to navigate some troubled waters during her water polo career with Team USA.
The San Marcos High graduate missed the 2015 Junior World Championships with a burst appendix. She sat out nearly all of last summer’s Pan American Games after injuring her leg in the collapse of a balcony in South Korea.
And now the coronavirus has cancelled the team’s summer trip to Tokyo: The International Olympic Committee announced this week that it’s postponed her first Summer Games until next year.
“It adds to the journey,” Hauschild said.
The positive spin, she admits, is part of her training with Team USA.
Hauschild, 20, left the team’s Olympic Training Center in Los Alamitos last week to wait out the pandemic in Santa Barbara with her parents, Dwayne and Jenni. Her training now is highlighted by frequent runs with Mom on the trails of More Mesa.
“Running is not something I typically do,” Hauschild said. “I really don’t have access to any pools, so that’s a real bummer.
“Our strength trainer has been us sending workouts … We were given some gym equipment to do the workouts in our backyards, but it’s hard to mimic water polo movements on land.”
She agrees with the decision to postpone the Olympics.
“As much as it sucks, there are some things bigger than sport,” she said. “At the moment, the health and safety of all the athletes — and the health of everyone in the world, for that matter — is of the utmost importance.
“It’s definitely a bummer, but we can wait a year.”
Two of her USA teammates, sisters Kiley and Jamie Neushul, are also hunkering down with family in Santa Barbara.
A Q&A on the Team USA web site asked Hauschild, “What advice would you give your younger self and what would you remind your older self?”
“Stop worrying so much,” was her reply.
Dealing with the trials of water polo stardom remains part of her training during the team’s daily, computer meetings on “Zoom.”
“We talk a lot about our team’s values with our sports psychologist,” Hauschild said. “The thing I’ve really tried to embrace, personally, is resilience.
“I’m trying to see the bigger picture … Let go of the negative and look at the positive … Bounce back from the things life throws at me. I’m trying to be as resilient as possible and do as much as I can to get back out there and chase my dreams.”
Realizing her dream of making the Senior National Team roster as a teenager stirred its own turbulence.
“All the other girls were so much older and experienced, and it took me a while to adjust,” Hauschild said. “It wasn’t like I jumped in and kicked butt right away. It’s been a gradual process.
“That’s what’s really a bummer about all this because I feel like I was making a lot of progress. I feel I was playing better than ever before and was starting to realize my role on the team, and where I fit in to make this team successful.”
Hauschild has swum this lane before. She scored seven goals at last summer’s FINA World Championships in South Korea to help the U.S. win the gold medal. But while celebrating the 11-6 title victory over Spain, Hauschild and teammate Kaleigh Gilchrist were injured when a nightclub balcony collapsed.
Two South Koreans were killed. Hauschild suffered cuts on her arm and a deep gash on her right leg that needed eight stitches. Gilchrist’s lacerated left leg required surgery. Two members from the men’s team, including the nephew of former Carpinteria High football coach Ben Hallock, also suffered cuts.
“It was a real scary event,” Hauschild said. “Luckily, most of our teammates had already gone home. A few of them were out front waiting for a cab but we were the only ones on the balcony.
“We were actually very lucky, considering that people were killed. It makes you that much more thankful for what you have.”
Hauschild and Gilchrist were replaced on Team USA’s roster while recuperating during the subsequent Pan Am Games in Peru. Hauschild was summoned to the pool, however, when two of her teammates took ill before the final. She scored one of team’s goals in a victory over Canada.
The next step of her journey is not yet clear. She had taken this year off from her studies at USC to prepare for the Olympics but had planned to return in the fall.
Hauschild led the Trojans to the 2018 NCAA Championship during her freshman season and was a finalist for the Cutino National Player of the Year Award during each of her first two years. USC coach Marko Pintaric was counting on her to lead them back to the top in 2021.
“Maybe I’ll go to school in the fall and take some time off in the spring,” Hauschild said. “We’re still waiting to hear the dates of the Olympics next year. Everything is so up in the air.
“I need to call him (Pintaric) — I’ve got to keep him informed — but I don’t have a lot of answers right now.”
It’s become the new challenge of the world.