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World hockey back on even par, says Belgium coach McLeod

Shane McLeod, coach of men’s world No 1 outfit Belgium, says bidding for a first Olympic title will be a “fresh challenge” with another year to go before the Tokyo Olympics.

World champs Belgium, runners-up at Rio 2016, were leading the FIH Pro League before the tournament halted due to the pandemic and were seen as the form side heading into Olympic summer, following their European title and extra time off to prepare after automatic Olympic qualification.

“I was very happy with how we had been going,” McLeod, 51, told Reuters in an interview.

“We bought ourselves eight weeks that other nations didn’t have, so while we were working on individual aspects of our game, other countries were still needing to qualify.

“I think we had a bit of a headstart and you saw that in the Pro League games we played earlier this year.

“Now we have to recreate that performance gap, but it will be a fresh challenge.”

McLeod was planning a year sabbatical from the sport after announcing he would be stepping down at the helm of the Red Lions.

But he has been back overseeing the team after Belgium was given the green light to train with social distancing measures earlier this month.

He said: “We’ve spent a lot of time working out how we best prepare for the Olympics in these current circumstances and a lot more detailed conversations with our sports science colleagues.

“Normally we have a formula that we reproduce, maybe fine tune a little, but this is really different and now were ad-libbing in areas where we’ve never been before but seeing some positive outcomes.”

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