All the news for Sunday 29 July 2012 - Start of the Olympics Hockey competition.
Black Sticks beat Hockeyroos in Olympic opener
The blue and pink Riverbank Arena was looking stunningly beautiful under the bright sunshine for the start of Olympic hockey. The two teams from Oceania were first in action and the emotion of the players from New Zealand and Australia, who had trained for so long for this first match, was palpable during the anthems. The Australians were nervous in the first minutes and conceded a penalty-corner on the first incursion of the New Zealanders in the circle, and Cathryn Finlayson scored the first goal of the Olympic competition to give New Zealand an early lead.
Australia quickly got rid of their early jitters and started to push back New Zealand on their heels. Megan Rivers thought that she had scored after the a superb run into the circle, but her powerful shot hit the post and nobody was on hand to use the rebound. The game then settled in a balanced contest, between two teams very close in the FIH Rankings (6th for New Zealand, 7th for Australia) and knowing each other quite well.
Anna Flanagan was close to tie the score for Australia with a powerful low shot on penalty-corner, but Black Sticks’ goalkeeper Bianca Russell saved it with an acrobatic dive. New Zealand successfully appealed to the video-umpire to avoid another penalty-corner late in the period, but were surprised in the last seconds by Anna Flanagan, who received a long ball behind the defense. Bianca Russell was once again up to the task and half-time was reached with the one-goal margin for New Zealand.
The Black Sticks were once again faster off the starting blocks and Charlotte Harrison received an excellent ball from Katie Glynn but, alone in front of the goal, could not turn fast enough to beat Toni Cronk in the Australian goal. The match continued with end to end attacks, keeping well entertained the near capacity crowd, with very vocal contingents of Aussies and Kiwis. Australia’s appeal to the video-umpire for a penalty-corner was rejected; however they soon played with an extra player when New Zealander Melody Cooper received a yellow card. They pushed forward, but the New Zealand defense weathered the storm quietly and the Aussies could not even generate a shot on goal.
Despite playing short one player, New Zealand managed to force a penalty-corner after a long run by Gemma Flynn, but Katie Glynn’s flick was weak and the score did not evolve. With time running out, the Australians became more desperate in their attacks. Georgia Nanscawen, Casey Eastham and Hope Munro were very active upfront but the Black Sticks’ defense, efficiently backed by Bianca Russell, once again held tight. With two minutes to go, Australia replaced their goalkeeper with an extra field player. The gambit nearly paid off on their first attack, but it was too little too late and New Zealand earned the 3 points of the win on the benefit of their early goal.
Black Sticks facing 'do or die' vs Hockeyroos
JONATHAN MILLMOW IN LONDON
MARK HAGER: "We have to be aggressive and push as hard as they do and take no backwards steps." LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
Hold onto your hats - the Black Sticks and the Hockeyroos are about to wage war in a potentially do or die women's hockey match in London.
Pool B is the "pool of death" with four good teams and only two to qualify for the Olympic semi-finals.
New Zealand and Australia are only ranked third and fourth in this group but secretly both fancy their chances of causing an upset later on against Argentina or Germany.
So today is a kiss or cry affair - the winner in the hunt, the loser needing a miracle.
In the nine most recent clashes dating back to the 2010 Commonwealth Games final in Delhi that Australia won 4-2 on strokes, the scoreboard reads four wins to Australia, three to New Zealand and two draws.
Black Sticks coach Mark Hager is urging his team to be aggressive in the early morning game (8.30am local time).
"We have to be aggressive and push as hard as they do and take no backwards steps," Hager said.
"We have to convert the chances we get. Normally in our games we get eight each, so we have to put ours away."
The Black Sticks are fast and fit and captained by the brilliant Kayla Sharland, girlfriend of Crusaders flanker George Whitelock.
She and Emily Naylor are three time Olympians and two others - Krystal Forgesson and Gemma Flynn - are both at their second Games.
Sharland has a good passing and receiving game and all the experience in the world (169 caps).
"Aussie will be tough, but exciting at the same time," Sharland said.
"The girls are really hungry to get this game."
Australia will base its game on power and counter attack. They have been open about their tactics and will rotate their midfielders in short, sharp bursts.
"They're going in ranked above us, so it's obviously (important)," senior player Casey Eastham said.
"If we play our game and put everything on the pitch that we've set out to do, then we can come away with a good win.
"We definitely want to get on the board because we've got a tough pool and some really tough games ahead of us."
It might be a game decided on penalty corners. The Black Sticks have options, but none of them deadly. Australia has a highly rated drag flick option in powerful, late-blooming farmer's daughter Jodie Schultz.
Everyone is trying to get an edge, leading to a few shenanigans during the week. The Hockeyroos accused the Black Sticks of videoing one of their training sessions, to which Hager said " we were in France".
Then there is the much publicised sleeping pattern of the Black Sticks to help them prepare for their 8.30am games. They hit the sack early and will be expected to be on the go from 5.30am on match day.
"We try and wind down around 7pm," Sharland said.
"We have these special glasses we put on with amber lenses.
"That shuts out all the blue light and then we have a process in terms of a hot shower, computers off at a certain time, no cellphones, no alarm clock (lights) visible - all those things that stimulate your mind."
Michelsen eyes redemption in Aussie opener
By David Leggat
Final defeat in Delhi still haunts Stacey Michelsen. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The abiding memory is of tears. When New Zealand came up short of gold in their Commonwealth Games hockey final against Australia in Delhi two years ago, there was a minor flood of them.
They'd drawn 2-2 with Australia but lost the penalty stroke shootout 4-2. Silver was a fine result, taking into account rankings, but it hurt as the players realised they'd squandered a glorious opportunity for a magic moment for themselves and their sport.
Stacey Michelsen was among the most composed in the immediate aftermath. It was impressive from the then 19-year-old midfielder. Two years on, she has made it clear the pain may have dimmed but it still remains.
"I was talking with [team-mate] Gemma Flynn a few days ago about it and we both still think about it quite often and still feel the hurt of that loss," Michelsen said. "We've moved on and learnt from it but it's definitely one we're not over."
Arriving home and being repeatedly told silver was not to be sniffed at didn't exactly help either.
"A lot of people said that to us when we returned and it frustrated us even more."
Now it's Australia again tonight, a good way to start the Olympic campaign and New Zealand will go in confident. Since Delhi, the teams ranked No6 (New Zealand) and 7 (Australia) have met eight times for three wins each and two draws.
The programme is such that victory tonight will set whichever team wins off to a strong start; lose and it's not terminal but it certainly won't help.
Michelsen shapes as a key figure for the Black Sticks. She made her 100th appearance in the Four Nations tournament in Bremen this month and was certainly one of those coach Mark Hager had in mind when he referred to speed as one of New Zealand's best attributes.
Northlander Michelsen appears as a composed, bright sort. She's doing law and commerce degrees at Auckland University and given the number of internationals hockey teams play, is well on track to racking up a hefty chunk of appearances for her country.
She's also smart enough to realise that no matter the size of a player's contribution to the cause and weight of games to draw wisdom from, it doesn't pay to feel you are part of the furniture.
"I still think it's about proving your place by your performance. I have learnt a lot over those 100 games but you still have to perform and feel you are deserving of the position."
New Zealand play the Aussies at 8.30am local time. The squad have adjusted their routines and sleep habits to make sure their bodies and minds are fully switched on from the start. Special glasses with amber lenses have been used as part of the strategy to get to bed earlier than normal. Computers are switched off at an appropriate time, so too cellphones and alarm clocks in a bid to eliminate anything which could distract or stimulate the mind when sleep is required.
It smacks of a savvy professionalism and while Michelsen admits she's not among the naturally early risers, there's a strong belief the strategies will do their part.
"A lot of the girls prefer to play in the morning as opposed to waiting through the day to get going. I think it will be good for us and we're better for having done our simulation period."
Michelsen, whose cutting runs in from the flanks will be an important part of New Zealand's attacking strategy, knows she wasn't at her best during the Four Nations.
"There's definitely a few things to tighten up on the ball. I didn't have a good performance there and we have to learn from our mistakes at the Four Nations," she said.
The New Zealand Herald
Battle to return to NZ team was not child's play
By Michael Burgess
Alana Millington. Photo / APN
New Zealand Olympians face plenty of challenges but Alana Millington deals with more than most - the Black Sticks defender is the only mother in the team and spends long periods of the year away from her infant son Jordan.
The hockey side, along with their male counterparts, are arguably New Zealand's most travelled outfit and the Olympics means more than a month away.
There was a three-week trip to Argentina at the start of the year and the team also flew to South Korea and Japan during May and June. Before today's game against Australia, the Black Sticks women have already racked up a staggering 32 matches this year.
Unfortunately, as most parents know, enforced separation only gets more difficult with time.
"When he was younger, it was a bit easier," says Millington of Jordan, who will turn three in October. "He was out of sight, out of mind and, if I knew he was okay, then I was fine."
Millington takes advantage of modern technology like Skype to stay in touch but it can be a mixed blessing.
"Lately, it has been harder. I can't Skype him as much because he gets really crabby afterwards. He tries to take the computer away from my Mum - he thinks if he's got the computer, then I can't go. He seems to think he is the only one that can shut it down.
"Sometimes I feel like I am upsetting him when I Skype, which makes it worse because I feel bad enough as it is."
Motherhood is fairly common in netball - around 20 per cent of New Zealand players across the ANZ Championship have children - but it is a big challenge to return to the court.
It is even more difficult in hockey, now one of the most non-stop, intensely demanding sports in the world since the rules changed.
Millington, who has 39 caps, had made her debut in 2007 but missed the cut for the Beijing Olympics. After she gave birth in October 2009, she started the long road back the following year, via the New Zealand development squad.
"Trying to come back into it was horrible," remembers Millington. "Our trainer didn't care that I was way behind everyone and I just had to do what they were doing. In the end, I would run till I spewed. It was horrible but looking back, it was good - he had no mercy and made me run. It took a few months to get fit enough and drop all the weight."
The biggest challenge was building up her muscles again, especially her core strength.
"I lost my abdominals. It was so hard to just hold a bridge or do a plank - I had nothing there. I couldn't even do one push-up. As Jordan got older, I actually got stronger arms from lifting him all the time but even [now] in some areas, I'm not as strong as I used to be."
Her experience provoked a lot of interest among her team-mates, who have an average age of just over 23.
"It can escalate into a big conversation," laughs Millington. "Half the team is clucky and I think they are all quite intrigued by it all. Mark [Hager] would say 'stop, we are not talking about this'.
"When Jordan was a baby being passed around [I think] Mark [Hager] used to get a bit worried. He would say 'don't get any ideas - one mum is enough for this team'."
The 24-year-old Millington has no regrets but is quick to emphasise what her advice would be to fellow players contemplating children mid-career: "Don't do it. It is so hard to come back and it is hard on everyone that helps me and Jordan. You get torn; I would love to be rich enough to pay someone to bring him everywhere."
Millington works in a day care centre in Whangarei, allowing precious time with her son at work. It's a busy schedule, as she also drives to Auckland up to four times a week for training and helps her partner on their dairy farm with milking on her days off and weekends.
Hockey runs in the family - mother Angeline is the assistant coach of the New Zealand under-21 team - so Millington was always likely to follow in those footsteps. She ranks a win over Australia on debut as her career highlight so far, a result that would be eagerly welcomed this evening.
The New Zealand Herald
Olympic Preview - GB v Japan
Great Britain women's opening fixture of their Olympic hockey campaign, sees them play Japan, who are ranked 9th in the world.
Fixture: Great Britain v Japan
Date and time: 29 July 2012 - 19:00
Location: Riverbank Arena
Watch Live on BBC: Olympics 7 (red button for Sky, Virgin & Freesat)
Great Britain #4
Head to Head Record
Goals For: 20
Goals Against: 8
The GB women have only ever faced Japan seven times and have impressively won five of these fixtures. The first time GB played Japan in September 1978, they won emphatically with the final score standing at 8 – 0. GB’s most recent encounter with Japan was in Rosario at the Champions Trophy, which saw GB win 3 – 0. Crista Cullen, Helen Richardson and Alex Danson all got their names on the score sheet, something that they will be hoping to achieve again in today's fixture.
GB player to watch
Kate WalshThe longest serving player in the Great Britain team for London 2012, captain Kate Walsh is now in her 13th year of an international career. This is the Mancunian’s third Olympics, and she has captained England and GB since 2003. Kate lead the side to its best ever World Cup result, the bronze medal, in Rosario in 2010. Shortlisted for the World Player of the Year Award in 2003, Walsh was Great Britain Hockey’s Athlete of the Year in 2007 and has twice won the prestigious Hockey Writers’ Player of the Year, in 2003 and 2007. After a superb team and individual performance at the Champions Trophy, which saw the GB women win their first ever world level silver medal, Kate will be hoping the side can emulate this performance at the Games.
Japanese player to watch
We asked the GB team who they consider are the 'players to watch':
Name: Akemi Kato
Position: Defensive midfielder
As the oldest female hockey player at the Games, Kato has a vast amount of experience, being capped nearly 400 times. She is a solid player who is pivotal in dictating the play for Japan.
Name: Kaori Fujio
Position: Centre forward
Having represented Japan in all three of their Olympic appearances, Fujio is a huge threat up front. Her scoring ability from the field is excellent and her fearless attitude means she will literally put her body on the line when it comes to playing for her country at the Olympic Games.
Great Britain Hockey media release
Team USA meets Germany
LONDON - The U.S. will face-off against world ranked No. 3 Germany on opening day, Sunday, 29 July, at 9:15 p.m. The match will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network at 4:15 p.m. ET.
Germany is competing in their sixth Olympic Games, with their best appearance being a gold medal in 2004. They finished just out of medal contention in Beijing and will look to reassert themselves on the podium while in London.
Natascha Keller is the veteran on the German squad, competing in her fifth Olympic Games. She has played in more than 400 competitions and has scored 203 goals throughout her illustrious field hockey career. Keller carried Germany’s flag into Olympic Stadium for Opening Ceremonies last night, the first female for Germany to do since 2000.
Keller competes alongside two teammates who also boast a gold medal from Athens in 2004, Fanny Rinne and Mandy Haase. Rinne is making her fourth and final Olympic appearance in London.
The U.S. has made it clear that they anticipate taking home hardware from these Olympic Games. While considered the underdogs by being ranked No. 10 in the world, the U.S. is confident a podium finish is achievable.
“I’m really excited to start the competition,” says Paige Selenski (Shavertown, Pa.) “This is the moment I have been waiting for my entire life. There is going to be a big crowd and a lot of people watching, including my family that arrived today. I look forward to playing Germany and getting a win in this first match.”
“Germany is a very skilled team that has a great potential to score goals,” said Lauren Crandall (Doylestown, Pa.). “It is going to be about taking advantage of the small moments that come in the game. The team that does that will be the one that is going to come out on top.”
The quest to gold begins tomorrow.
Schedule for Sunday, July 29
8:30 a.m. New Zealand vs Australia** NBC Sports Network (4:00 a.m. ET)
10:45 a.m. Netherlands vs Belgium
1:45 p.m. China vs Korea
4:00 p.m. Argentina vs South Africa
7:00 p.m. Great Britain vs Japan
9:15 p.m. Germany vs USA** NBC Sports Network (4:15 p.m. ET)
USFHA media release
British hockey team aim to have last laugh
British women’s hockey coach Danny Kerry has declared that the Japan side who are the first obstacle on his squad’s gold medal quest on Sunday night will have gained nothing from their pre-Games strategy of extreme secrecy.
The world’s ninth-ranked nation have disappeared off the radar and played no games since qualifying for the Olympics, allowing Kerry no chance to prepare a specific tactical plan. But Kerry insisted that "the only things you can squirrel away are little set-pieces," he said.
GB’s Helen Richardson has revealed that the squad had, in any case, been preparing specifically for the south-east Asian threat – with Korea and China also in their group - by re-enacting the way they play in that part of the world. "The Asian teams play in a similar way overall,” Richardson said. “So in our training matches we practised 11 versus 11, with one team playing as the other nation to get used to how they play. That will help us get into our groove and get that first game under our belts.
It is the physical and mental conditioning that makes the women, with injuries concerns of defender Crista Cullen and forward Alex Danson behind them, a better bet than Jason Lee’s men for gold.
“You can see by looking at the girls, especially when they've got their kit on, there will not be a better conditioned team at the Olympic Games," Kerry said. He admitted that his players had “hated” him for forcing them to perform improvised comedy in front of the men’s squad, to strengthen them mentally. “They couldn't see the parallels," he said.
Captain Kate Walsh said the psychological strengthening allowed each player to know what another was thinking under pressure. "In tough games you just know by the look, it's that level of communication," she said. "You can know what do I need from you now, what you need from me?"
The Queen visits GB Hockey
Dan Fox meets the Queen
Great Britain’s Olympic hockey stars had the honour of meeting Her Majesty the Queen on Saturday morning. Accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and Lord Moynihan, Chairman of the British Olympic Association, the Queen was given a guided tour of the Olympic village on the first day of the Games.
Performance Director David Faulkner was introduced to Her Majesty less than 12 hours after she opened the Olympic Games at the conclusion of the magnificent Opening Ceremony. David, a 1988 gold medallist, escorted the Queen to the team’s townhouse accommodation in the Village where GB athletes Dan Fox, Richard Smith and George Pinner showed her around. Her Royal Highness Princess Anne and her husband Vice-Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence also visited and were given the guided tour by Nick Catlin, Harry Martin and Richard Mantell.
Before heading off to training, Dan and Richard explained their latest brush with royalty, which comes just five months after the Duchess of Cambridge visited the team’s training session at the Olympic Park.
"It was brilliant!” said Hampstead and Westminster defender Dan. “Her Majesty and Prince Philip were refreshingly laid back. They were very interested in our accommodation and because there are nine of us [in the townhouse] she asked if he had to watch TV in shifts.
"We chatted about hockey and apparently Prince Philip used to play. They asked if anyone snores, which fortunately they don't."
Loughborough Students defender and penalty corner taker Richard said it was slightly odd showing the Queen around. “It was really nice but a bit surreal to find the Queen standing in our bedroom. At first it was just her that came in and then Prince Philip snuck up just as I turned around. It was all quite light hearted. When we were wandering through the house she pointed out our hockey shoes but we didn’t linger.”
Her Majesty played a memorable role in Friday night’s opening ceremony when she appeared in a James Bond film with 007 himself, Daniel Craig, before apparently parachuting into the Olympic Park. When asked whether he'd spoken to the Queen about her first foray into acting, Dan said: "it didn't really come up in conversation, so I didn't mention it".
Both Dan and Richard will be looking forward to making their first Olympic appearances in Monday’s opening fixture against Argentina. If you don’t have tickets to the match at the Riverbank Arena you can still catch all of the action in your local Hockey House and live on the BBC.
The flagship International Hockey House at the Grange St Paul’s offers visitors a global dynamic to supporting GB. Join us to watch every exciting second of Great Britain’s teams in Olympic action. And with many more Hockey Houses opening their doors right across the country be sure to find your local Hockey House at www.hockeynation.info.
Great Britain Hockey media release
"I Think We Can Medal," Great Britain Field Hockey Captain Middleton
by Paul Smith
Barry Middleton insists his Team GB men's hockey side can end 24 years of hurt for this country at London 2012.
The 28-year-old was fundamental in a fifth-place finish in Beijing four years ago, GB's best result in an Olympics since winning gold in Seoul 1988.
Since then the Doncaster ace has witnessed dramatic improvements in the side, having been part of their rise from 11th in the world rankings in 2005, to their current position of fourth heading into the Games.
The East Grinstead star has already proved he is the right man to lead the troops after securing their first European Championship gold in 2009, and he is convinced they will have even more success this summer.
"I think we can medal. We have a belief and a confidence in the squad which is a nice feeling to have in the group," said Middleton, who will lead the side against Argentina, South Africa, Pakistan, Australia and Spain at the Riverbank Arena.
"It would be nice to see Team GB win a medal in hockey again. It has been a long time and I think we've had a few Olympics where a medal hasn't even looked like coming either.
"We've trained really hard. We believe that if we play to our ability we have a chance to make it to the semi-finals. Anything can happen from there, but first and foremost playing our way into the semi-finals is the aim.
"I think the crowd can play a big part. It's so different for hockey, we don't normally get the partisan crowd as it is in other countries, but heading into the Games we get the feeling that everyone will be behind us making so much noise and I think that can only help us to do better than we ever have before."
With two Olympics already under his belt, Middleton is the most capped player in the squad, with more than 250 international appearances under his belt. He is also set to play his 100th match for Great Britain during the summer's Games.
And Middleton believes his centenary could really be one to celebrate with years of training and hard work meaning the side is more prepared than ever.
"It's been tough to get in this squad, but it's been the best set-up we've ever had," he said.
"We used to come together six months before and try and qualify and it wasn't a great way to do it."
"This longer process has been brilliant for us as a squad, because it's got everyone in better shape before the Games. These are the sort of games you want to play in.
"We've been training every day so you don't really see it go by and all of a sudden the Olympic Games are around the corner. It's a bit scary when you think about it."
Australia tipped to topple hockey champ Germany
LONDON: Traditional powerhouses Australia and Germany look set to dominate the men's Olympic hockey tournament, while Argentina and the Netherlands are favourites to reach the women's final, although host Britain could prove a strong outsider.
Germany is the reigning men's Olympic champion, but since its win in Beijing has looked increasingly unsteady compared to an improving Australia side. The Aussies beat Germany in the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi to underscore their gold medal potential in London.
"We've won everything in the last three years under Ric (Charlesworth, the Australian coach). We don't expect it to be easy, but we're going to concentrate on what we can do," Australia midfielder Jamie Dwyer said.
Australia has won the Champions Trophy every year since 2008. Germany could manage only fifth place in the 2011 competition.
But German captain Maximilian Mueller does not seem worried about his team's prospects, saying: "We are at our experienced peak and it is time to win something."
Second at the 2011 Champions Trophy was a Spain team that has looked dangerous since its 1-0 loss in the 2008 Olympic final.
"Our aims are to finish in the top two of the group so we can reach the semifinals," Spain coach Dani Martin said.
The Netherlands will also be disappointed to leave London without a medal, having been one of hockey's dominant teams for over two decades. But the Dutch men's team has not won gold since Sydney, where it successfully defended the Olympic title it won four years earlier.
In the women's tournament, Argentina and the Netherlands look to be closely matched. The Dutch are the reigning Olympic champion, but Argentina has looked impressive since its bronze in Beijing, winning the 2010 World Cup and the Champions Trophy earlier this year. Coach Carlos Retegui said the mood in the Argentina camp is "calm and content."
The Netherlands team will be helped in London by short corner specialist Maartje Paumen, the current world player of the year.
Paumen, the Dutch captain, broke the Olympic scoring record in Beijing with 11 in seven matches, including a hat-trick in the Netherlands' 5-2 victory over Argentina in the semifinal.
Paumen needs three more goals to overtake Australia's Alyson Annan as the top Olympic scorer of all time.
Great Britain and New Zealand are the clearest challengers to the two-team dominance of the women's tournament. New Zealand is expected to significantly improve on its last place in the 2008 Olympics. The team won bronze medal in the 2011 Champions Trophy.
Host nation Great Britain has not won an Olympic women's hockey medal since its bronze in 1992, but will hope to reach the podium after a promising display in this year's Champions Trophy, in which it lost 1-0 to Argentina in the final.
"I think we're in that nice position where we're still an underdog, but we've had some good results and we feel confident," Great Britain captain Kate Walsh said.
The London Games mark the Olympic debut for the Belgium women's hockey team, which despite being ranked 16th is still "very ready" to face the Netherlands in its first game, according to coach Pascal Kina.
It is also the first time Olympic hockey will be played on a pitch that is not green - London's Riverbank Arena pitch is bright blue surrounded by pink. The new colour scheme is intended to make the game easier to follow for television viewers and spectators.
South Korean men's head coach Seokkyo Shin described the water-based artificial turf pitch as "very good - the blue and pink is very beautiful."
Women's hockey starts on Sunday and the men's tournament begins on Monday.
The Times of India
Kookaburras Olympic Campaign Hits off Monday
Player to watch - Eddie Ockenden. Photo: Getty Images
It's time to shine for the Kookaburras...their Olympic campaign hits off on Monday!
Kookaburras v South Africa
Foxtel LIVE: July 30, 7.35pm(AEST)
Pool A: Australia, South Africa, Great Britain, Spain, Pakistan, Argentina
Players to Watch:
Australia: Jamie Dwyer, Eddie Ockenden, Chris Ciriello
South Africa: Captain Austin Smith, Justin Reid Ross, Lloyd Norris Jones
The Kookaburras opening game against South Africa is a David and Goliath match up but in this story the mighty Australian outfit will prove too great.
Anything less than gold and this team will have failed to reach its potential with arguably this, the best group of Australian hockey players ever assembled under the world’s greatest coach.
If the Kookaburras win gold it will be historic, as they will be the first nation to ever hold the maximum number of FIH world ranking points and then there would be no argument that this is a team of unrivalled champions.
Ric Charlesworth took over as Kookaburra’s coach in 2009 and quickly transformed the group into the benchmark of international competition.
Just one year after his appointment the Kookaburras dominated the world stage with gold medal wins at all three major competitions, the World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Champions Trophy.
They’ve since won three Champions Trophy titles, under Charlesworth and will play for their fifth straight title in Melbourne this December.
A four-time Olympian and former Kookaburras captain, Charlesworth’s best result was silver at the Montreal Games in 1976 and he later went on to have a decorated career as coach of the Australian women’s team, the Hockeyroos.
It was known as the golden era and the Australian hockey Hall of Fame inductee coached the women to every major international title, including back to back gold medals at the 1996 Atlanta and Sydney 2000 Games and to two World Cup wins.
So it seems at the helm of the men’s team, the gold he never won as a player is the last feather Charlesworth needs in his cap to complete his extraordinary list of achievements.
But a brilliant coach must have brilliant players to carry out a master plan and Dr Richard Charlesworth certainly has that!
An outstanding group of athletes is led by none other than five-time World Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer and South Africa simply don’t have the class to match the world’s best.
The African nation is ranked 12th and finished last at the Beijing Games four years ago.
Despite improving and winning the African Cup of Nations six times, against the hockey powerhouses, there’s a long way to go.
The Kookaburras will have to be on their guard on defensive penalty corners however, with Justin Reid Ross considered one of the best at executing this skill.
For Australia, it’s Victorian Chris Ciriello who was named in the Australian outfit as the number one drag flicker.
Other players to watch include Tasmanian Eddie Ockenden and Dwyer’s brother-inlaw Mark Knowles.
Charlesworth has named five co-captains for the Olympics; Dwyer, Ockenden, Knowles, Fergus Kavanagh and Liam De Young and it’s hoped they will all lead Australia to a win in each of the pool matches.
Tip: Australia 6-0 win. Ciriello scores hat-trick
Hockey Australia media release
PHF names final Olympics squad
ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) Saturday finalised 16 players for the Olympics after two practice matches. Penalty corner specialist Sohail Abbas will lead the team while and Waqas Shareef has been appointed as his deputy. Goalkeeper Imran Butt and Syed Kashif Shah have been left out from Pakistan's preliminary 18-member squad.
The PHF had delayed the announcement of final list of 16 players and carried 18 players to England, sighting the tough competition of places during the month-long training camp established in Abbottabad. Pakistan team lost both of its Olympic warm-up games against minnows Belgium and European superpower Holland. The Green Shirts lost 0-2 to Belgium and 1-5 against Holland in London. The final line-up announced by team management after thorough discussions have recommended the below-mentioned Players, approved by chief selector Abdul Hanif Khan.
Pakistan will start their Olympic campaign against Spain tomorrow (Monday).
SQUAD: Imran Shah, Muhammad Irfan, Sohail Abbas (Capt), Muhammad Imran, Muhammad Rizwan Junior, Fareed Ahmed, Rashid Mehmood, Muhammad Tousiq, Waseem Ahmed, Muhammad Waqas (vice-capt), Shafqat Rasool, Abdul Haseem Khan, Muhammad Rizwan Senior, Muhammad Umar Bhutta, Shakeel Abbasi and Rehan Butt.
Hockey legend Balbir in hallowed company at Royal Opera House
Chandigarh: Hockey legend Balbir Singh Senior has been accorded the rare honour of representing the Olympic story of game's evolution in an exhibition titled "The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games" at the Royal Opera House from July 28 to August 12 and will be a part of the London 2012 Festival.
The 87-year-old triple Olympic medallist (1949, 52, 56) from Punjab is the only hockey player in the world to be chosen among 15 other iconic names as Jesse Owens of America.
“It is a great honour for me and for India where hockey is still a passion in rural areas. I still hope that hockey's future lies in India and the game has vast scope in the country,” Balbir Singh Senior said from London on Saturday.
The former center-forward was born on 10 October 1924 at Haripur Khalsa in Punjab.
Apart from representing India in three Olypics as a player, he coached the Indian team for the 1971 Men's Hockey World Cup in which India won the bronze medal.
He was the manager of the winning Indian team for the 1975 Men's Hockey World Cup.
The stories of the representative 16 athletes are narrated through interviews, historic footage, photographs and artefacts. The exhibition highlights human strength, passion, determination, hard work and achievement.
Along with life histories of 16 iconic players the exhibition will also showcase anique artefacts and images from The Olympic Museum in Lausanne and charts the journey of Olympic Games from its creation in 776 BC through to the London 2012 Olympic Games. Balbir has been at the forefront of hockey in Punjab right from start. The Moga-born athlete is one of the most decorated player in hockey.
He played at a time when hockey was at its peak in India and Punjab a dominant force not only on the national but international circuit. “That was a different time. There was a lot of pride and passion involved in hockey. I wish Indian teamdoes well in Olympics and renews interest in hockey. It is a very bright opportunity for them. I hope they will live up to the expectations of whole India,” he said.
Dungdung remembers hockey gold at Moscow 1980
London: July 29, 1980 is a date etched in Olympian Sylvanus Dungdung's heart, for he was the proud member of the Moscow gold medal winning Indian hockey team, the last one to win the yellow metal in Olympics.
"I will never forget this date. I hold the gold medal and visualized the game which we had won against Spain. Exactly 32 years completed today. There are goose bumps," Dungdung said stretching his arms.
The right fullback, who played under V Baskaran's leadership then, stood like a rock along with others when Spain's rampaging Juan Amat had lurked the defence line in the last ten minutes as he almost pulled off parity.
"But our captain Baskaran advised us to give it all for your nation's pride, and don't allow the Spaniards to restore parity when India was precariously defending the 4-3 score in the final minutes," said Dungdung recalling the sensational final that gave India [their eighth] gold after a drought of 16 years.
Dungdung said the huge margins against Tanzania (18-0) and Cuba (13-0) in the preliminary round worked as a booster when India started the final against Spain at Dynamo Stadium with a bang, racing away with a 3-0 lead.
He is honest enough to admit that a foul committed by him fetched a penalty corner fwom which Juan Amat scored. Amat later went on to score from another penalty corner.
"But we hung on to our 4-3 lead till the end, and all of us were relieved at the referee's long hooter," Dungdung said.
He said he has prayed for the Indian hockey team taking on Holland in its first match Monday in London.
Some of India's great men
by Shubham Ghosh
Bangalore, Jul 28: Here we take a look at some of the top hockey players from India. This list is not exhaustive and with due respect to all those who have sweated it for Indian hockey at the Olympics, we have randomly selected a few.
Dhyan Chand (1905-1979): The most prolific hockey player not only in the history of India but perhaps in the annals of world history of the sport. Called the ‘Hockey Wizard', Dhyan Chand is paralleled only by the likes of Sir Donald Bradman and Jesse Owens in other sporting disciplines. Originally known as Dhyan Singh, the man who was once a man in the British Indian Army, used to practice his skills in the game in the moonlight after serving in the army during the day. His colleagues hence gave him the surname 'Chand' after the moon. This could also be a big reason behind the magnificent craftsmanship that Dhyan Chand possessed with the stick.
He was in the Indian hockey team which had won gold in the 1928, 1932 and 1936 Games (he was the captain in the 1936 Games). In the 1932 Games, Dhyan Chand and his brother Roop Singh scored eight scores each and India went on to thrash the hosts, USA, 24-1. In the 1936 Games final, India trounced hosts Germany 8-1 and it is said the Great Dictator had offered Dhyan Chand a position in the German army. It is believed that out of sheer disbelief at how Dhyan Chand made his stick talk, some even broke his stick to see if there was any magnet or glue inside. Dhyan Chand was awarded with Padma Bhushan in 1956. August 29, which is his birthday, is celebrated as the National Sports Day every year.
Roop Singh (1910-77): Roop Singh was the brother of the great Dhyan Chand and a part of the teams that won gold medals for the country at the 1932 and 1936 Olympics. The man from Gwalior played as the inside left and was considered one of the best in the business. His hits were so powerful that he was asked to be careful so that he did not end up injuring any player on the field. He had scored 10 of India's 24 goals against the USA in the 1932 Games. Also, the Germans were so impressed with his game at the 1936 Games that they had even named a street after him.
Balbir Singh Senior (born in 1924): One of India's best centre-forwards in the game. A member of the gold-winning team in 1948, 1952 and 1956 Games, Balbir Singh Senior had the ability of scoring at will. He was a deadly customer inside the penalty circles. He was the flag-bearer of the Indian contingent at the 1952 and 1956 Games. He was also the member of the Indian side that won silver at the 1958 and 1962 Asian Games. Post retirement, Balbir Singh had served as the manager of the Indian team at the 1971 and 1975 World Cups and India did well in both these editions. He was conferred with the Padma Shri in 1957, the first hockey player to achieve the feat.
Leslie Claudius (born in 1927): One of the finest right-halves of his time, Claudius started with football and had even played in the IFA Shield. He was part of the team that won three successive gold medals at Olympic hockey between 1948 and 1956. He was also the captain of the team at the 1960 Games that lost to Pakistan in the final. He found a place in the Guinness Book for winning the maximum number of Olympic medals along with Udham Singh Kular (who achieved the feat in 1952, 1956, 1960 and 1964 editions). He was conferred with the Padma Shri in 1971. His late son Robert had played for India at the 1978 World Cup.
Shankar Laxman (1933-2006): The first goalkeeper to captain an international side, Shankar Laxman was one of the greatest hockey players of all time. Laxman had given up study at the tender age of 13 to play hockey and from 1955 he began to represent Services in the national championship. The man from the army was part of gold-winning teams at the 1956 Olympics and 1958 Asian Games.
However, India's loss to Pakistan in the 1960 Olympic final earned him much criticism but he regained his popularity after India did well at the 1962 Asian Games and reclaimed the gold medal from Pakistan at the 1964 Games. Laxman had captained India at the 1966 Asian Games where India emerged the champions. He did not find a place in the 1968 squad and in 1979, Laxman retired as an honorary captain in the Maratha Light Infantry. Laxman, a recipient of the Arjuna Award and Padma Shri award, spent his last days in utter poverty and died of gangrene at the age of 73. He was cremated with full military honours.
Ajitpal Singh (born in 1947): An outstanding centre-half during his heydays, Ajitpal first played in the 1968 Mexico City. Although, India came third in that year, Singh had caught all eyes for his precise and perfect ball distribution. He was the skipper of the Indian side at the 1970 Bangkok and 1974 Tehran Asian Games besides the 1976 Montreal Games. He was selected in the Asian All-Star team in 1974. Ajitpal Singh's best moment came in 1975 when India beat arch-rivals Pakistan to lift the World Cup, the only time it had won the coveted trophy. Singh is the Chef-De-Mission of the Indian contingent at this year's London Games although he fell ill and his responsibility was later taken over by Brigadier Brigadier PK Muralidharan Raja.
Dhanraj Pillay (born in 1968): An ace Indian striker, Dhanraj Pillay served as the poster boy of Indian hockey for a long time. The man from Kirkee in Maharshtra, Dhanraj fine-tuned himself under the guidance of his elder brother Ramesh, a former Indian player. First selected to represent India in international hockey in 1989, Dhanraj went on to play for 15 years and participated in four Olympics: 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004. He was the highest scorer in the Bangkok Asian Games and was the only Indian to figure in the World XI during the 1994 World Cup. Dhanraj received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 1999 and the Padma Shri the next year.
Ashish Ballal (born in 1970): Ballal has represented India at 1992 Olympics, 1990 World Cup, 3 Champions Trophy tournaments (1989, 1993, 1996), two Asian Games (1994, 1998) and two Asia Cups (1989, 1993). Ballal's best moment perhaps came in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games final against South Korea when he saved two goals in the tie-breaker and helped India win a gold at the Asiad after 32 years. He received Arjuna Award in 1997. He is considered one of the finest goalkeepers India has produced.
Gagan Ajit Singh (born in 1980): From a family of Olympians, Gagan Ajit Singh first made his apperance on the national circuit after scoring 27 goals in the 1997 Junior Nationals for the Air-India Academy. He was the captain of the Indian Junior World Cup in 2001. He recived the Arjuna Award in 2003. He represented India at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. He was named in the All-Asian men's hockey team in 2002 after the Busan Asiad in 2002.
In the current lot:
Sandeep Singh (born in 1986): One of the best drag-flickers in the game today, Sandeep Singh is a former captain of the Indian national team. It was under his captaincy that India clinched the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 2009. He was the top scorer in the tournament. Sandeep Singh alone decimated French in the Olympic qualifiers final this year by scoring five goals from penalty corners. With 16 goals, he was the highest scorer in this year's Olympic qualifiers. An Arjuna Award recipient, Sandeep Singh was seriously injured in an accidental gunshot while travelling in a train. He was almost paralysed but came back with an iron will and donned the national jersey.
Sardara Singh (born in1986): Sardara or Sardar Singh is the captain of Hyderabad Sultans and captained the Chandigarh Dynamos in the Premier Hockey League. He plays for the centre-half position for both the Chandigarh Dynamos and Indian national team. He also became the youngest captain for the Indian national hockey team in the 2008 Sultan Azlan Shah hockey. He was adjudged the best player in both the 2010 and 2012 editions of Sultan Azlan Shah hockey besides the London Olympic qualifiers earlier this year.
Lack of female hockey coaches worries Brown
THE only woman holding a senior coaching position amongst all the field hockey teams competing at the London Olympics believes the sport should be concerned by a lack of top-level female coaches.
Karen Brown is assistant coach of the Great Britain women’s team, a post she has held since 2005.
Prior to her coaching career, Brown won 366 caps in total for England and Great Britain and was a member of the British team that won the bronze medal at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
“Currently in the men’s and women’s game at international level, there is only me who is an assistant coach,” Brown said on Friday.
Four years ago, the South African women’s team were coached by Jenny King. She has since left that role and no longer has any active involvement in hockey at international level.
The Star of Malaysia