No jolly hockey sticks, says Sas­coc

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - SAMEER NAIK

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.

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