THE YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES BUENOS AIRES 2018

At the 3rd edition of the Youth Olympic Games held in Argentina we could see our sport played in a totally different and renewed format, Hockey5s.

Hockey5s was the proposal from the organization and when we heard about it we started to wonder how it was going to be recieved by the wider hockey family. We are used to seeing our beloved sport played as a traditional 11 a side format on a standard hockey pitch, to see the defence, the midfielders and the forwards in a pretty tight formation from the beggining to the end of the matches (although rotations are so common nowadays).

In an effort to make hockey more dynamic and attractive, hockey5s was proposed and accepted as it was the case for the YOG in Nanjing 2014.

The field is half the size of the regular one (in Buenos Aires the field size was 48 m long and 31.7 m wide). The teams played two halves of 10 minutes each and 2 minutes rest between the two halves. Another change that was also made was that you can score a goal from anywhere on the field and not just when you’re inside the D. The catch is that the ball must be moved at least 4 meters, on set plays and free hits, much like the 5meter rule when given a free it in the oppositions 23m รกrea, before shooting.

 

The Games at Buenos Aires

In the women’s side, twelve countries competed in groups A and B as well as in the men’s side. Vanuatu, Uruguay, Austria, South Africa, India and Argentina formed group A. China, Australia, Poland, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mexico fromed group B.

Las Leoncitas, the hosts, won the gold medal and had a stellar performances throughout the entire tournament. Winning 21-0 in their debut against Vanuatu, 6-0 against Austria, 4-0 against South Africa, then beating India 5-2 and Uruguay 5-0 to close the preliminary round in pool A.

At the quarterfinals the Leoncitas won 3-0 against Namibia and later, at the semifinals, thrashed South Africa 11-0. They obtained the gold medal after beating india 3-1 in a more contested game from their first encounter. In this way they made history, after winning the silver medal at Singapore 2010 and bronze at Nanjing 2014.

The 2nd and 3rd Place went to India with silver and China receiving the bronze medal overall.

In the men’s side group A was formed by Poland, Mexico, Malaysia, Vanuatu, Argentina and Zambia. Australia, Kenya, India, Bangladesh, Canada, Austria formed group B.

Malaysia was part of the group A and won the gold medal. They started their campaign with a win against Vanuatu (14-0), the next day beat Mexico 4-2, won against Zamibia 7-2, lost to Argentina 2-4 and closed the preliminary round pool 4-3 against Poland.

At the quarterfinal they beat Austria 2-0, won at the semifinal 7-4 against Zamibia and obtained the 1st place in the competition by winning 4-2 against India.

The 2nd and 3rd places went to India with Silver and Argentina receiving the bronze overall.

Lessons learnt

We could see some hockey power houses at the games, like Argentina, India and Australia. South Africa and China participated too. But we could also see many countries we are not so used to seeing at big competitions. It was good to have the opportunity to witness what they could do against those power houses. It surely helped them to win some experience and know what is like to compete at international stage.

Vanuatu was one of the teams that were beaten in every game but everyone realised why this was once the hard reality they live in is to be understood. A few months before the games they had to practice barefoot, without protective gear and with old sticks. Just a year ago they were playing football or cricket but nonetheless they obtained their ticket at the YOGs in Buenos Aires and they were so happy to have the opportunity to compete at the games! You could see their delight even after losing at the end of every game, no matter their result, and expressed their hope to compete in the next YOGs. This is what hockey is all about and the will and delight in playing for your country.

Opinions vary when we think about the bulky results we have seen at the Youth Olympic Games but the main objectives of the them is for the young players to learn about The Olympic and playing at an international event, social responsability, skills development, expression and well-being as well as a healthy lifestyles. Or as one of the embassadors of the games and hockey legend, Luciana Aymar, put it โ€œto use the games as an introduction to what comes next, the senior Olympic Gamesโ€.

 

Hockey5s was fun to watch. It was fun to see those young athletes running non-stop whether they were losing or winning by a wide margin. It was fun to watch their skills, the many stunners and tomahawk shots ending in the back of the net from far distances as well as the many great saves from the goalkeepers. The most Important thing was to witness the demostrations of true sportmanship at such young age.

Could hockey5s be the future of field hockey at the summer olympics? We have to wait and see. But right now the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 are in the books and new history has been written.

It will be interesting to see how many of these young athletes will make it to the senior teams. And for the olympic champions, what a way to start their olympic career!