Monday, June 24, 2024

Olympic hockey qualifiers: Canada aim to make Tokyo on no funding

Ireland v Canada, Saturday/Sunday

Nine months after they were dealt a blow of Olympic-size proportions, Canada women are two matches away from realising their Tokyo dream.

Back in February, Team Canada, then ranked world No 21, were told that they would have to self-fund after being stripped of their Own the Podium funding heading into Olympic qualification due to a shortfall in finances.

“That to us was quite shocking, as you can imagine,” captain Katie Wright said earlier this year.

“We’ve been trying to work with Field Hockey Canada to get on the same page, but unfortunately we’re struggling with that. As a team we’ve become self-sufficient.”

So, what did they do? They rallied, crowdfunded and upped sticks to Europe as a team.

They are now ranked world No.15 and Ireland, seeking to reach their first Olympics, will see this match at their temporary pop-up facility as no walkover.

Canada, who last reached the women’s Olympics in 1992, finished fifth at the Commonwealth Games and were runners-up behind Argentina at the recent Pan Am Games in Peru.

Their South African coach Giles Bonnet had his contract terminated soon after the funding news, but will see through these qualification matches.

Now, he admitted in Peru, Canada are receiving calls for teams to play them.

Their decision to move to Belgium, where most of the players are now with clubs, means that they are training together and playing against some of the world’s best at the weekends.

Canada had received £1.3 million during the Rio Olympic cycle when they were based back home.

This year they have amassed over £120,000 in funding as well as a private donor paying for tournament preparations earlier this summer.

“It’s a fantastic group,” said Bonnet, who is based in Amsterdam.

“I think the potential of this team is quite remarkable. We want to be the best. I think this team could ultimately, over four years, it could go all the way. It could be a top four (team) in the world.”

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