Gorgeous striker Anita Punt and former Black Sticks star Dave Kosoof were brought together by the sport they adore – but their love story has not always been jolly hockey sticks.

When they became a couple two years ago there was palpable tension between the New Zealand hockey representatives.

That’s because Dave, a veteran of two Olympics and a Commonwealth Games, in which he won silver, had just retired from the sport while Anita was starting out at the elite level.

‘I was happy for her but it made me miss it [top level hockey], Dave explains. ‘She’d get annoyed because she’d say something and I’d say, "Done that",’ he adds.

‘Dave was still coming to terms with leaving,’ recalls Anita, who has been a Black Stick since 2009 and is also a Commonwealth Games silver medallist.

The relationship was tested again last year when Anita, touted as the fastest woman in world hockey, was signed to play in Holland for six months. It was, Dave confesses, a tough time. But Anita showed her dedication to her Auckland-born partner, by buying matching silver rings that they still wear.

The couple, who share a passion for their sport and all the pressure that goes with performing at the top, admit they also had their share of secrets when love first blossomed.

Mindful of their age difference, the 24-year-old current Black Sticks star and Dave, 34, kept their relationship under wraps until Nelson-born Anita moved north and into the same house.

‘She [also] told me she was taller,’ says Dave, laughing.

The 1.53m athlete fires back: ‘I’m sure I’m taller than I am.And he told me he didn’t snore. Next thing I was like, "What the hell is that noise?"’

The lead-up to the Olympics has been intense for the couple. ‘I’ve been to four weddings recently without Anita – that’s been hard,’ says Dave who clearly misses his partner. But, he adds, the advantage is, because I’ve been through it I understand not to pressure her.’ Although he resorted to watching her games on TV just to catch sight of her. ‘It’s kind of like seeing her.’

And, despite this being the busiest year of her life, ambitious Anita is also studying animal care by correspondence.

‘What was I thinking!’

Anita’s sights are firmly set on doing well in London. And Dave – who taught world tennis No 1 Novak Djokovic the haka at the Beijing Olympics – is all about supporting her. So much so, Dave will be turf-side when the Black Sticks, ranked sixth in the world, chase Olympic glory – and Anita’s dream. ‘Anita’s great,’ he says with a wide smile. ‘We are in it for the long term.’

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