Sunday, May 19, 2024

Olympics Hockey: ‘We’d prefer extra-time over shoot-outs,’ say Australia players

Aran Zalewski, Australia’s co-captain, said that the Kookaburras would have preferred extra-time to decide the Olympic final after the heartbreak of their shoot-out defeat following an exceptional men’s final.

The 2020 Olympic final was the first to finish with a shoot-out in the men’s competition after Australia and Belgium were tied 1-1 after normal time.

The last time a final was decided that way came in 2004 when Jamie Dwyer became an instant legend with an extra-time goal as the Kookaburras beat the Netherlands to win the Athens Olympics.

Zalewski said: “To lose in shoot-outs, it’s never a good way. We always want to play the game, as we see it, we really look fondly on the 2004 gold medal game that went to extra time and shows the durability of the team.

“We really rate our fitness so it was a shame that we didn’t get to do that. But a shoot-out is what it is.”

Eddie Ockenden, who finishes with a silver medal in his fourth Olympics, concurred with Zalewski.

“It was a tough match. It was a close game but I thought we had the running at the end and couldn’t quite get there.

“Shoot-outs are tough. I prefer extra time. We couldn’t get it done in the shootout.”

Victor Wegnez leads the way towards Vincent Vanasch PIC: REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

Australia now return home facing two weeks of quarantine after four weeks away.

“We had a pretty challenging 18 months in Australia,” added Zalewski. “We really didn’t have any competition and we were watching the European teams play against each other and thinking ‘Oh they might get an advantage over us’.

“But we had to use that as our advantage and come out here maybe a little bit unknown. So we tried to use that to our advantage as much as we could coming here into Tokyo.”

Defeat was especially harsh on goalkeeper Andrew Charter, one of the players of the tournament.

He produced an outstanding save in the final before being outdone by Belgian stick skill in the shoot-out.

Charter said: “For us, the Olympics is the epitome of our sport. Particularly in Australia we don’t get much airtime until the Olympics come around every four years unfortunately.

“So for us, it’s something we dream of as little kids. It is something as guys who have been playing since they were four, you know, being coached by guys who had won gold medals. So it was something that a lot of those guys … have strived for since they were little fellas.”

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