Rossland’s Thea Culley and the Canadian Women’s National Field Hockey Team arrived in New Delhi earlier this week. They are in India for one reason: to earn a ticket to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The men’s and women’s teams will each play in a week-long round-robin tournament beginning on Saturday.
The teams finishing first and second in each tournament will compete in a final match, with the winner earning an Olympic berth. It will be a tough road, but tickets to London are well within reach of the Men’s and Women’s National Teams.
The Canadian Women enter the Qualifying Tournament ranked fourth behind South Africa, India and Italy – but they are ready for an upset.
After giving reigning World Champions Argentina a run for their money at the 2011 Pan American Games, the Canadian women are confident they can outplay and defeat teams that seemingly outrank them. Since Guadalajara, Team Canada has focused on improving their weaknesses and perfecting their strengths under the leadership of Head Coach Louis Mendonca.
Mendonca knows what it takes to qualify for the Olympic Games – he led the Men’s National Team to Beijing in 2008.
The National Team competing in New Delhi is nearly the same team we saw in Guadalajara – with a few new additions including Maddie Secco of Victoria and Kate Thompson of Vancouver. Team Captain and veteran Katie Baker is confident in her team, describing them as “competitive and tough.” “We are ready to compete together,” she said.
Culley is a veteran of 80 senior caps, third most behind Stephanie Jameson who will soon surpass the Women’s Canadian Cap Record, currently held by Laurelee Kopeck with 163 international appearances. Stephanie has played 162 matches for Canada since her international debut in 2002. Approaching this milestone is no surprise to the Jameson family – the three kids were born with field hockey in their blood. Sue Jameson, Steph’s mom, also played field hockey on the Women’s National Team. Steph’s brother, David, currently plays for the Men’s National Team and younger sister, Katie, competes for the UBC Thunderbirds.
Nine men’s teams and nine women’s teams have already qualified for London through continental competitions.
Team Canada’s open the competition against Italy Saturday at noon.
In total, six Olympic spots are still up for grabs; three on the men’s side and three on the women’s. The winners of each of the six upcoming Olympic Qualifier Tournaments will earn a berth to the London 2012 Games.
In total, twelve men’s and twelve women’s teams will compete in London at the Riverbank Arena from July 29 to Aug. 11.