After missing out on Rio 2016, SA Hockey hails Tokyo Olympics inclusion

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South African hockey player Keenan Horne (Gallo Images)
South African hockey player Keenan Horne (Gallo Images)
Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images
  • Sascoc announced on Thursday that both men and women's hockey teams would be competing at this year's Tokyo Olympics.
  • SA Hockey CEO Marissa Langeni hailed the 'significant' achievement after missing out on the 2016 Rio Olympics - despite qualifying.
  • SA women's vice-captain Phumelela Mbande and men's vice-captain Keenan Horne talk about their expectations and benchmarks leading into July's Games.

After missing out on the 2016 Rio Olympics, South Africa will be sending the men's and women's hockey teams to the Tokyo Games starting in July.

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) announced on Thursday an initial squad of 64 athletes, which included both 16-player hockey squads.

Despite qualifying for the 2016 Rio Games, Sascoc decided not to send any hockey team to Brazil regardless.

There was a lot of doubt whether the same fate would befall hockey again this year. But on Thursday, Sascoc revealed that they would be sending the men's and women's team to the Games.

"It's been a long journey for us at SA Hockey. This has been significant for every athlete within our hockey teams," said South African Hockey Association CEO Marissa Langeni.

"This is a culmination of years of preparation and dedication with challenges thrown our way. Now that we here and we're on our way to Tokyo, we are extremely elated and excited for our players."

Earlier this year, the men's hockey side launched a crowdfunding campaign with the help of a platform called Matchkit.co

The SA men's team are looking to raise between R3.5 million and R5 million to support the team before and during the Tokyo Games financially.

READ | SA men's hockey coach on Tokyo Olympics medal hopes: 'It's not impossible'

Tim Drummond, 33, will continue to lead the men's side as he joins the four Olympians already selected in the squad: Rassie Pieterse, Taine Paton, Clinton Panther and Austin Smith.

18-year-old Mustapha Cassiem and 21-year-old Sam Mvimbi will be playing in their first major tournament, while every other player has featured in at least one major tournament.

The men's team has never made a the knockout stage with a 10th best finish at the Olympics.

Keenan Horne, the men's vice-captain, said his side would relish their underdog tag.

"For us, it's not about being a number and participating there, we're going to compete. Yes, we withstood adversity, but we want to go out there and make South Africa proud. We thrive under being the underdog," said Horne.

South Africa, currently 14th in the world, is drawn in Pool B in Tokyo alongside world champions Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, and Canada.

Meanwhile, Erin Christie will captain the SA women's team, who are drawn in Group A alongside Ireland, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and India.

"Both the men and women's teams know the responsibility to be able to go and represent South Africa on the biggest international stage," said Christie in the virtual press conference on Thursday.

"So, definitely, we're going to give it everything we've got and the days that are left will be focusing on going there and showing everyone that we can compete with the best in the world."

The SA women's side features veteran Lisa-Marie Deetlefs, who will be competing in her third Olympic Games and is the only existing Olympian in the squad.

Christie will be supported by Phumelela Mbande with the women's side hoping to better their all-time best Olympic result of ninth.

"Some may know that we weren't able to go to the previous Olympics, so we understand that this Olympics is important not just for us but for future generations. What we do at this year's Olympics will set the standard for South African hockey going forward," said Mbande.

Mbande added that SA women's hockey team would mainly focus on securing a quarter-final spot in Japan.

SA's hockey Olympic squads:

Women

Quanita Bobbs, Erin Christie, Lisa Deetlefs, Lilian du Plessis, Nicole Erasmus, Tarryn Glasby, Robyn Johnson, Charne Maddocks, Lerato Mahole, Phumelela Mbande, Edith Molikoe, Kristen Paton, Tarryn Potts, Celia Seerane, Nomnikelo Veto and Onthatile Zulu

Coaches and Management: Gillian Doig (Manager), Robin van Ginkel (Head Coach), Nkuliso Zondi (Assistant Coach) and Taren Naidoo (Video Analyst)

Men

Erasmus Pieterse, Timothy Drummond, Austin Smith, Mohamed Mea, Matthew GuiseBrown, Jethro Eustice, Nduduzo Lembethe, Taine Paton, Nicholas Spooner, Clinton Panther, Samkelo Mvimbi, Abdul Cassiem, Mustapha Cassiem, Nqobile Ntuli, Keenan Horne and Tevin Kok

Coaches and Management: Martin van Staden (Manager), Garreth Ewing (Head Coach), Siphesihle Ntuli (Assistant Coach) and Ashlin Freddy

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