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Path to the podium: Women’s Hockey

6 August 2016

HOCKEY: The Australian women’s hockey team is currently ranked third in the world and has three Olympic gold medals to its name.

The team has not been on the podium since winning gold on home soil in 2000 and will be determined to bring home a much deserved medal at Rio 2016.

The Rio 2016 competition features two groups of six teams with the top four teams from each group securing progression to the quarter-final stage of the tournament.

From there the highest ranked team in each group will play the fourth seed from the other group, while the second and third seeds will feature in the other quarter-final match-ups.

The Aussies have been drawn alongside Great Britain, United States, Argentina, India and Japan.

With over 350 international appearances, Australia’s most capped female hockey player, Madonna Blyth, will lead the team in her third Olympic campaign.

Blyth will be joined by three-time Olympian Casey Sablowski, London 2012 Olympians Emily Smith and Jodie Kenny, plus 11 debutantes. 

Two athletes donning the green and gold for their first Olympic Games are Karri McMahon and Gabi Nance, who have shared their thoughts on the teams they will face at Rio.

Group Games 

Great Britain
World ranking: 7th
Best Olympic Games result: Bronze - Barcelona 1992, London 2012.
London 2012 result: Bronze.
Recent results v Australia: Great Britain 1 – Australia 4 (2016 Champions Trophy)
England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales join forces for the Summer Olympic Games and will be looking for another Olympic medal after winning Bronze at London in 2012. Currently positioned seventh in the world rankings, Great Britain has been in strong form this year, finishing fifth at the 2016 Champions Trophy.

“We’ve had plenty of games against Great Britain and we’ve got a pretty good track record. They’re a fast team and they’re still a developing side through 2016 so I think they’ll be a good match-up for us for our first game,” Nance said.

United States
World ranking: 5th
Best Olympic Games result: Bronze 1984 Los Angeles
London 2012 result: 12th
Recent results: United States 3 – Australia 2 (2016 Champions Trophy play-offs)
The United States hasn’t seen an Olympic medal for over 30 years. However, the USA recently defeated Australia 3-2 in a penalty shoot-out in a minor final at the 2016 Champions Trophy and Nance says they are a team to keep a close eye on.

“The USA will be a competitive side, they are fast and fit. They’re extremely dogged and they put up a good fight,” Nance said.

“They’ve also come up in the world rankings in the last year or two so they’re a team on the improve,” McMahon added.

India
World ranking: 13th
Best Olympic Games result: 4th Moscow 1980
London 2012 result: Did not qualify.
Recent match results: India 1 – Australia 2 (2016 Friendly International)
The women’s Indian hockey team is returning to the Olympic Games after a 36-year gap. “India is one of those tricky teams. They have some classy players and then some different skills. I think that we match-up a bit better in the physical department than they do and in structure as well,” McMahon said.

Argentina
World ranking: 2nd
Best Olympic Games result: Silver – Sydney 2000, London 2012. Bronze – Athens 2005, Beijing 2008
London 2012 result: Silver
Recent match results: Argentina 2 – Australia 1 (2016 Champions Trophy)
The women’s hockey team became the first women’s team in any sport to win an Olympic medal for Argentina in Sydney in 2000 and have won four consecutive medals since. Currently sitting in the position above Australia in the world rankings, and coming off the back of the Champions Trophy gold medal, the contest between the two nations is one not to miss, according to McMahon.
“Argentina are very skilful, having recently won the Champions Trophy they’re in great form and will be someone that we match-up well against. Both teams are equal with speed and skill so it will be a really good game.”

Japan
World ranking: 10th
Best Olympic Games result: 8th Athens 2004 London 2012 result: 9th Recent match results: Japan 1 – Australia 3 (2016 Friendly International)
“Japan are a well-structured side, I think we are better skilfully and physically than they are. They are easy to unpick and counter-attack which falls to our style of play,” Nance said.
McMahon agreed: “They are very regimented. When they do something on the field, it’s very much like this is how it’s done.”
Two key teams that Australia is likely to face in the push for Olympic gold in Rio are our Oceania neighbours New Zealand and five-time Olympic medallists The Netherlands.

New Zealand
World ranking: 4th
Best Olympic Games result: 4th London 2012
London 2012 result: 4th
Recent match results: New Zealand 1 – Australia 3 (2016 Champions Trophy)
Our Oceania neighbours are positioned just below the Aussies in the current world rankings and, according to Nance, always promise a close game.“New Zealand are tough competition, we’ve had a lot of experience playing against them and I think we match-up well,” Nance said

Netherlands
World ranking: 1st
Best Olympic Games result: Gold – Los Angeles 1984, Beijing 2008, London 2012. Silver – Athens 2004. Bronze – Seoul 1988, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000
London 2012 result: Gold
Recent match results:  Netherlands 2 – Australia 1 (2016 Champions Trophy)
The current world No.1 ranked team, The Netherlands, will provide one of the greatest challenges for Australia at Rio. The Netherlands is the most successful female hockey team of all time, with seven Olympic medals and seven World Cup titles.

Georgia Thompson
olympics.com.au

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