No jolly hockey sticks, says Sascoc
IN A BLOW for sports development, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) has stuck to its decision not to send the men’s and women’s hockey teams to next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Former South African women’s hockey captain Marsha Cox, who retired from international hockey three months ago, has described the decision as “extremely unfair and harsh”.
While the men’s and women’s teams failed to reach the necessary qualifying criteria after they were eliminated from the World League qualifying series, both won Greenfields Africa Hockey Championship titles last weekend, enabling them to qualify for the Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee and International Hockey Federation rules allow teams to qualify through continental championships.
Sascoc, however, insists the continental qualification route won’t be considered, and announced this week that neither team would compete at next year’s Games.
Sascoc said in May that all participating sporting codes had agreed on the Rio 2016 Olympics qualification criteria.
Cox, the most capped sportswoman in South Africa, said: “I know that Sascoc has set additional criteria for other sports codes as well and, while this can be understood, if they want podium potentials I think it is unfair to place the criteria where no support is given.
“The hockey teams ( and other athletes) are expected to support themselves and compete against professionals from other countries.
“And on top of that, the cri- teria set are unrealistic, given these circumstances.
“The reality that international hockey is semi-pro or professional in all countries ranked in the top 14 in the world, except South Africa, means we will always be a step behind.”
It will be the first time since 1992 that South Africa will not be represented in either the men’s or women’s hockey tournaments at the Olympics.
Cox said her former teammates were distraught at the decision, but still hopeful that Sascoc would reconsider.
On the lack of real support for the teams, Cox said at the Hockey World Cup in 2014, South Africa’s men and women were the only two teams not on a centralised programme, or in a professional domestic league set-up.
Yet the women finished in ninth place, one place below the likes of Germany where all players receive monthly support from their national Olympic committee and national federation for a fouryear cycle building up to the Games.
South African hockey players were expected to work and study full-time.
“This fact makes the side an over-achieving team when you consider the playing field is completely different for us. “It is the exact scenario for the Commonwealth Games, where we finished fourth, behind professionals from Australia, England and New Zealand.
“I believe these factors need to be considered and more support needs to be given by the powers-that-be before criteria are set,” she added.
Cox, who represented South Africa at three Olympic Games, also complained that Sascoc’s decision to leave the teams out of the Games sent a negative message to the rest of the world.
OUT: Fiona Butler, in the green and yellow for South Africa, in action against Australia at the Technikon Pretoria. The team will not take part in the next Olympics.