The Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina will feature the quick-paced Hockey 5s version, played on a condensed 50×40 metres surface and surrounded by low level boards.
In the women’s event, hosts Argentina will be joined by Australia, Austria, China, India, Mexico, Namibia, Poland, South Africa, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe.
The men’s event will see Argentina welcome Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Vanuatu and Zambia.
Brendan Guraliuk and Rowan Childs will represent Canada in Buenos Aires after getting their first Hockey 5s taste at the Pan American Zone qualifying event in Mexico last year where Canada finished third behind Argentina.
The duo are relishing the Games and believe Hockey 5s can open up the sport to a new audience in nations where hockey is not seen as a majority sport.
“When you think about it, it’s kind of like rugby sevens. We play 10 minute halves and the games are done in 20 minutes,” Guraliuk told the Delta Optimist. “We got selected for the team last March and played it for the very first time when we got to Mexico. It helped that we have ice hockey backgrounds. We had super quick shifts and that was different too.”
“I loved it,” added Childs. “Especially growing up with ice hockey here our entire lives and having the boards all around you. They are trying to grow the game and this is a really exciting version of it.”
Head coach Carlos Retegui led the Argentina men’s team to a gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. He also won bronze with both the men’s and women’s teams at the 2014 World Cup. ‘Chapa’ as he is also known, is now hoping to better that performance by leading both the men’s and women’s teams to gold medals at the Youth Olympic Games in his homeland. (FIH)
Ben White (Australia)
At just 17 years old, White co-captained his side to Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) qualification, took out leading goal scorer at 28 goals and also bagged player of the tournament at the Oceania Youth Olympic qualifiers in Port Moresby, PNG. Now, the Victorian will lead the men’s Hockey 5s in their quest for their third Youth Olympic Games gold medal.
“Coming into the YOG as defending champs adds a little bit of pressure, but it’s more exciting,” White told Olympics.com.au. “We have a drive that no other team will have, in trying to defend the trophies we won at the last two YOG’s.
Vivek Sagar Prasad (India)
Vivek Sagar Prasad will lead India’s hockey5s team in Buenos Aires, with the 18-year-old being hailed as a future star in his homeland. In January this year, the midfielder became the second youngest player ever to debut for India’s senior men’s team at just 17 years, 10 months and 22 days, and he has already played a key role in two major international tournaments.
In April, he was a member of the Indian squad that finished fourth at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, and then in June he scored the equalising goal in the final of the 2018 Champions Trophy, before India were eventually beaten 3-1 on penalties by Australia. Having already shown his skills at elite senior level, all eyes will be on Prasad in Buenos Aires to see if he can deliver a much sought-after medal for hockey-mad India.
“The feeling of being selected for the youth Olympic team was one I could never put in words,” Hockeyroo Naomi Duncan told The Women’s Game. “I have been fortunate enough to have made my debut for Australia earlier this year whilst at the qualifying tournament in Papua New Guinea for the hockey 5s, but the reality of being able to perform at an Olympic level in less than a month has yet to properly sink in, that my childhood dreams are coming true.”
Samuel Tagwireyi was a player for Zambia in 2014 as the team reached the last eight. This year, he has made the transition to coach.
“I woke up every day in 2014 with a smile on my face,” he said. “It was the most beautiful thing to be part of the Games and learn and share with fellow players from so many different countries. It was amazing because I also learned much about life outside sport. My advice to my players this year will be to make the most of their opportunities at the YOG. It is perhaps only once in their lives they will have this chance to interact with so many diverse people in this environment.”