The moment the Canadian men’s field hockey team left Toronto and the 2015 Pan American Games this past July, the focus turned to Olympics next year in Brazil.
The Canadian men have officially qualified for the 2016 Games, but before Brazil, they have eights months of training and competition ahead, which starts in earnest at the Hockey World League Final in Raipur, India this week.
For many on the team, the World League Final is a chance once again to prove their worth after missing out at the Pan American Games.
“I was pretty disappointed to miss Pan Ams,” says Victoria’s James Kirkpatrick, who is a relative newcomer to the international scene with 28 international matches to his name. “This is an awesome opportunity. There are some really good teams. It’s a real opportunity for me to show what I’ve got and try and earn a spot in the top sixteen and be on that plane for Rio.”
Kirkpatrick is one of seven players on the Canadian World League Final team who wasn’t on the team in Toronto. He knows there will be a close eye on him and each his fellow teammates as Rio approaches.
“It’s always an audition. Every training, every game,” says the twenty-four year old forward. “I try not to think of that too much. I just think of my role and doing what I do and doing it for the guys. I think that if I do all that … then everything will just fall in to place”
But it’s hard not to think about.
That’s especially true for veteran defender Richard Hildreth, who was watching from the sidelines from much the summer.
“Not being selected always stings a bit. Especially when you’re one of the older guys,” says the thirty-one year old from Vancouver.
“It’s obviously nice to see younger guys coming through and challenge your spot. That means nothing but good things for our team. But you’ve got to be somewhat selfish and want to be on the team and help the team win.”
Hildreth was a part of the Canadian team that missed out on qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, after a narrow loss to rival Argentina at the 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico.
That experience and the ups and downs of a career in sport, allows Hildreth to focus more of the process of playing as opposed to feeling the impacts of what his and his team’s performance could mean with regards to selection for Rio.
“Whether it’s an Olympic year or not, you want to go and you want to win every game you can,” he says. “You’ve got to find that balance between playing with a bit of freedom and normally, and knowing what you’re playing for, which is selection.”
Canada opens the Hockey World League Final on Saturday, November 28th at 12:30am PT/3:30am ET against Great Britain. All matches will be broadcast live in Canada on ATN’s Cricket Plus channel, as well as live streamed on StarSports.com.
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