[img_assist|nid=1576|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=150|height=175]The road to the London 2012 Olympic hockey tournament has taken a couple of unexpected turns with Ireland now to host a men’s qualifier and South Africa women opting to re-qualify, despite already having booked a Games place as African champions.
Ireland men’s prospects of qualifying have received a massive boost with a home tournament announced for Dublin from March 11-18. A joint men’s and women’s qualifier had been scheduled for Beerschot, Belgium. But with Belgium’s men qualifying, somewhat unexpectedly, with fourth place at the European Nations Championships, Belgium will just host a women’s qualifier.
The biggest roadblock on way to London for Ireland looks like the sixth-ranked Korean men who will be top seed in Dublin.
The other qualification tournaments will be joint men’s and women’s events in New Delhi, India February 15-26 and Kakamigahara, Japan, April 25-May 6.
Women’s world champions Argentina – defeated by the US in the PanAm Games final – have been spared the indignity of a qualifying tournament by South Africa’s decision to re-qualify. Argentinia go through to London as the highest-ranked, not-yet-qualified team.
The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASOC) has set their national sides the challenge of winning their respective Champions Challenge hockey tournaments to prove they were of suitable standard. South Africa finished fifth in the women’s Challenge in Dublin this summer. So they now face a difficult trip to the India-based Olympic qualifier, although the hosts, ranked one behind SA at 13, look like the only other likely winner in Delhi.
SA men also face a tough ask to win the men’s Challenge in Johannesburg, November 26 to December 4, to confirm their qualification. Belgium, Canada, India, Japan and Malaysia all look like tricky opponents there. Poland is the eighth team travelling to South Africa. If SA men fail to win the Challenge, and so don’t take their Games place as African champions, presumably Spain will be bumped up to London 2012.
The New Delhi qualifying tournaments had looked in doubt with the International Hockey Federation (FIH) in dispute with India over governance issues and the imminent ‘unsanctioned’ World Series Hockey competition. In the absence of any other announcement on this, it can only be assumed the relationship is warming a little. Although the Japan and Indian qualifying tournaments are a little worryingly labelled ‘TBC’ in the official news release.
The six winners of the Olympic qualification tournaments will join the nine men’s teams and nine women’s teams that have already booked their ticket to London. On the men’s side, the teams that are already qualified for the 2012 Games are (listed alphabetically): Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa.
The women’s teams that are already qualified for London are: Argentina, Australia, China, Germany, Great Britain, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States.
Below are all teams and groups for the six qualification tournaments (listed chronologically) as announced by the FIH on Saturday, November 12, after their executive board meeting.
|New Delhi (IND) – 15 / 26 Feb. 2012 (tbc)||rk.||New Delhi (IND) – 15 / 26 Feb. 2012 (tbc)||rk.|
|Dublin (IRL) – 11 / 18 March 2012||rk.||Beerschot, (BEL) – 17 / 25 March 2012||rk.|
|Kakamigahara (JPN) – 25 Apr. / 6 May 2012 (tbc)||rk.||Kakamigahara (JPN) – 25 Apr./ 6 May 2012 (tbc)||rk.|
|Cuba||39||Trinidad & Tobago||35|