One of the (many) things that I pride myself on is the ability to adjust: very few (to zero) environments exist where I wouldn’t be able to survive or have a good time. And never has a statement rung more true than when it comes to sports.
I’ve always been that (random) girl who’d fill-up the stands, well, because I can, and it costs very little in return for the greatest of rewards. If an activity is regarded as “sport”, then chances are I’ll watch it.
Okay, this is not entirely true. In high school, my uncle tried (to no avail), to convince me that boxing is ‘cool’. (I’m from the Eastern Cape, this is a prerequisite). He died trying!
And don’t get me started on the mate who regards Chess as a sport…my response is always the same, “Do they know what an ice-bath is!?” (Either way, they will soon become acquainted at the mention of the Ch….game)
As you can imagine, generally, it doesn’t take that much convincing to get me to a stadium, field or court. So when I received an invitation to go and see SA Hockey in the Champions Challenge tournament, I was like a kid on Christmas Eve (and I don’t even like Christmas).
But I digress…
As you may remember from this post, it didn’t go too well. I went to see the Bronze medal match and while signing my shirt, I got to chat to some of the players.
They were very cheerful about winning the bronze, but couldn’t hide the sadness of what coming third meant. These players included one Wade Paton, a trusted midfielder, who gradually agreed to be a guest on in(TRACK)suits this week. He shares the loss from a player’s perspective.
“Although we lost out on our Olympic Spot, we have gained a tremendous amount as a team. Not many teams would have been able to pick themselves up for a third / fourth play-off like the SA Hockey lads did.
Being dealt the blow of withdrawing from the Olympic Games on the Saturday was disheartening, yet we came out with one of our best performances against a highly ranked Argentinian side the very next day to clinch the bronze medal.
We played some really attractive hockey at times during the tournament. And for the first time in many a year our games were broadcast live on SuperSport, this was encouraging for us! Finally many people, who have never seen us, were able to see why we do what we do. Hopefully we have made a few people sit up and take notice of our professional outfit.
The loss of that Olympic spot has added fuel on the fire for an extremely determined group of people, who have a dream of going to the Olympic Games. We will stop at nothing to get to the London Olympics. We have put in the extra yards both on and off the field and we have no doubt in our minds that come the last qualifying tournament in Japan, we will be as ready as we can possibly be.
There are a few tough teams at the tournament, including Japan and China. We have however had some good results against both these teams in recent history; this reason will be an extra mental boost. However there’ll be the unknown factor, presented by teams such as Cuba, Austria and the Czech Republic.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), we have not faced these outfits, therefore we will have to do a very detailed analysis to make sure that we are not faced with any surprises, but that works both ways.
As a team we believe wholeheartedly that we deserve to be at the London Olympics. Our approach to the qualifying tournament (in Japan) will not be one which is driven by the pressure of qualification but rather driven by the craving for success.
Fulfilling a childhood dream for each one of us in the squad one we are determined to make a reality!”
All I can say to Wade and his team is this: SA Hockey men – I have seen you play: you’ve got the skill, drive and most importantly, the motivation. I believe in your ability as individuals and a team that these essential qualities will take you through to achieving your Olympic dream.”
My very best wishes to all of you!
Follow Wade on on Twitter