As a young child, Marijke Harttingh said she was "terrified' of going into the water and even had to be persuaded to take a bath.

Marijke, 16, said when she first started swim training at age 5 or 6 she didn't even like to put her head under the water, but those nervous days had long passed.

Today, you can't keep the 16-year-old Year 12 Mount Maunganui College student and competitive water polo athlete out of the pool.

Marijke, known as 'Mickey', described herself as "very goal orientated", setting herself regular targets and always aiming high.


And it is likely that this determination has helped her achieve so much at such a young age.

In 2010 Marijke was a member of the Tauranga Synchronised Swimming Club Dolphin Team which won bronze medals at the National Interschools competition.

The former synchronised swimmer said she became hooked on competitive swimming after taking up the sport when she was 8.

At 11 Marijke smashed eight swimming records at Tauranga Intermediate and qualified for the 2014 age-group national champs in the 50m and 100m freestyle and backstroke, 50m butterfly, plus was part of the Bay of Plenty swim relay team.

Marijke said about three years ago she decided to put her competitive swimming "on pause" to try something different and had been hooked on water polo since.

"I want to go as far as I can in water polo and would love to compete at the Olympic Games in 2020, although being more realistic it's probably going to be 2024," Marijke said.

"It does take a lot of hard work, dedication and discipline to be able to balance all my competitive water sports commitments with my schoolwork, particularly this year," she said.

"But I like to challenge myself when it comes to achieving my aspirations.


"Turning pro" would be a dream come true, Marijke said.

This week the talented teen will, for the third year running, compete at the NZ Secondary Schools Water Polo National Championships in Wellington which starts today.

Last year Marijke was a member of Mount Maunganui College's premier girls' team which won bronze at the same competition and was aiming for gold this time

She has also competed as a member of one of the two New Zealand Youth Development Teams at the inaugural 2017 Sydney Youth Water Polo Festival and placed fourth.

Last year the long-standing Greerton Swimming Club member also set three personal best long-distance times at the New Zealand Open Championships.

She "absolutely loves" the physicality and competitive nature of her chosen sport and coaches water polo during her lunchtimes to Tauranga Intermediate students.

But it is not only sports that Marijke excels in.

She also received excellent endorsements in all six of her Level One NCEA subjects in 2017 and hoped to emulate that success with her NCEA results this year.

In 2012 the then-Tauranga Primary School student was the inaugural winner of the BOP Foundation for Youth Development 'Positive Young Star Award' in recognition of her being a role model to other students and the wider community.

Proud mum Hester described her daughter as "amazing".

"She's so focused and has shown a lot of determination to succeed in anything she does," Hester said.

"My husband Reiner wanted Marijke to continue with her hockey. But it was his dream, not hers, and Marijke knows exactly what she wants to do and we support her 100 per cent."