Australia and Olympic Hockey
Australia’s record in Olympic hockey is exceptional. The first Australian men’s team competed at Melbourne 1956 and since then they have finished no lower than sixth. The Kookaburras won bronze medals at Tokyo 1964, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, silver medals at Mexico City 1968, Montreal 1976 and Barcelona 1992 and finally the gold medal at Athens in 2004. The Australian men had stood on the podium at six consecutive Olympics. Whilst they unfortunately did not make the podium at Rio 2016, the men's team continued the top-six tradition, finishing in sixth position after the quarter-finals.
Women’s hockey was first played at Moscow 1980, but Australia did not compete until Los Angeles 1984. Following the tracks of the Kookaburras, the Hockeyroos won the Olympic title at Seoul 1988, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000. Rechelle Hawkes was a member of each of these gold medal winning teams and read the Athletes’ Oath in the Opening Ceremony in Sydney. As a member of the team in Atlanta, Nova Peris became the first Indigenous athlete to win an Olympic gold medal. Since 2000 the Hockeyroos have recorded consistent results with fifth at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics. The consistent results continued at Rio 2016 with the women finishing sixth.
Men’s hockey was first played at the Olympics in London 1908, then at Antwerp 1920, and then again at Amsterdam 1928 after which it became a permanent fixture. Between them, India with seven wins and Pakistan with two wins won every Olympic title from 1928 through to Mexico City 1968. From Amsterdam 1928, until defeated by Pakistan in Rome in 1960, India won 30 straight games and scored almost 200 goals in the process. In the last 32 years, Western European teams, along with Australia, have become the powerhouses in the sport.
There are 11 players allowed on a hockey field, including the goalkeeper. Olympic rosters are limited to 16 players but substitutions can be made throughout the game. The format previously invovled two 35-minute halves however the format was changed to 15 minute quarters prior to Rio 2016, with a 2 minute break at after the first and third periods but teams are not allowed to leave the area of field of play.
If scores are level at the end of a final or play-off, matches go into extra time. Two, seven-and-a-half minute "sudden death" periods are played, with the first goal ending the match. If a result is still not reached each team selects five players for a penalty stroke shoot-out.
At the Olympic Games there are 12 teams in the men’s and women’s competition. Teams are split into two pools of six for the preliminary rounds. The top four teams in each pool proceed to the quarter-finals, with the remaining four teams eliminated at this stage. The winners of the quarter-finals progress to the semi-finals, the winners of which meet in the gold medal match. The losers of the semi-finals will play for the bronze medal.