London 2012: Field Hockey
Tell me about Olympic Field Hockey
Internationally, many fans of field hockey refer to the sport as just plain hockey. Field hockey made its Olympic debut in 1908 in London where it appeared as a men-only sport. Since 1928 to the present, men’s field hockey has appeared consistently as an Olympic sport, capturing the attention of fans from Germany to India to Australia. Women’s field hockey made its Olympic debut 32 years ago at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. India has dominated the gold medal count internationally for the men’s sport, having won eight gold medals since the sport’s debut. The Netherlands has also been a strong contender with the highest total medal count (14) of any other country in the sport. Australia, Pakistan, and Great Britain have also been dominating forces in Field Hockey’s Olympic history.
As for the London 2012 Games, there will be twelve men’s and twelve women’s teams and the games will be played in Olympic Park at the Riverbank Arena, a venue created just for the sport of field hockey. The women’s USA National Team qualified as one of the 12 teams that will compete for gold, but the men’s USA National Team did not qualify.
In 1976 the Olympic Field Hockey game under went a major change. For the first time, at those Games in Montreal, field hockey was played on AstroTurf. From field hockey’s debut in 1908 until 1972, the field hockey games were played on grass. Followers of the sport believe this significantly changed the nature of the game, as the teams that had dominated on grass between 1908-1976, including India and Pakistan, found themselves at a disadvantage with the new turf. Since the change, the Australian men’s team and the Great Britain men’s team have dominated by taking advantage of the AstroTurf. Since the change was made in 1976 and women’s field hockey was added in 1980, the women have always played on AstroTurf.
How to play:
Field hockey combines the field space and speed of soccer with the ball movement of hockey. Each team has 16 players, 11 field players (including one goalie) and five substitutes. The 100-yard by 60-yard AstroTurf field is broken up into two halves with a goal at each end. The goal sits in a half moon shaped goal circle.
Players are only allowed to score while within the goal circle. If a defender, while in the goal circle, fouls an attacking player, the attacking player is awarded a penalty corner. The penalty corner is taken from the goal line out on the corner and pushed into the middle where waiting attackers around the goal circle look to redirect the ball into the net.
Americans to watch:
With the men’s national team not qualifying for the 2012 Olympics, all American eyes will be on the women’s national team. After finishing eighth in 2008 in Beijing, Team USA, despite being underdogs, will be looking to come back strong.
Seven players who played in the games for Team USA in 2008 will be returning for a second chance at gold in 2012: Lauren Crandall (27 years old), Amy Swensen (32), Caroline Nichols (28), Kayal Bashore Smedley (29), Katelyn Falgowski (24), Rachel Dawson (27), and Keli Smith-Puzo (33). Team USA also has a set of sisters, Julia and Katie Reinprecht, who are playing in their first Olympic games together. However playing together is nothing new for the sisters since they played together in high school at Mount Saint Joseph’s and continued on to play at Princeton University. Katie is a member of the class of 2013 and Julia is a member of the class of 2014.
International Teams to watch out for:
For the men’s side of the competition, Germany took home gold in 2008 with a 1-0 win over Spain. Germany will be looking to take home another gold this year. However, they will be competing with the Netherlands and Australia, who have both been top four teams since the 1988 Olympics. The Netherlands have two gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze over the past six Olympic Games. Australia has won one gold, one silver and three bronze through the past six Olympics.
On the women’s side of the competition, the Netherlands took gold in Beijing in 2008. The Netherlands women’s team has been in the top four in six of the last eight Olympics, since women’s field hockey debuted in the Olympics. With two golds, one silver and three bronzes since the women’s field hockey debut, the Netherlands will be looking to continue their dominance on the word stage.
Know the lingo:
Goal circle – The area around the goal that strikers have to be in to score