THE chance to compete at an Olympics Games is not something that many athletes will ever have the opportunity to do, let alone by the age of 18.
But that rare and unique opportunity has presented itself for 25 young Canadian men who are in Vancouver this week vying for a spot on Canada’s Under-18 Men’s Field Hockey Team that will be headed Nanjing, China in just over a month for the Youth Olympic Games.
The selection camp got underway in Vancouver on Monday and will continue through next week, before nine athletes are named to the final roster on July 25.
“In this group, you’ve got a lot of athletes, guys who play more than one sport,” says Canadian Under-18 Head Coach Inderpal Sehmbi. “That will be big for us because the game is almost like street hockey or basketball, things that are more continuous transition games.”
The team will be competing in a recently introduced adaptation of field hockey called Hockey 5s. Instead of the typical 11 players on the field, there are five. The pitch is smaller, enclosed by boards, and the game is meant to be fast, physical, and exciting.
“This is a real good chance for us to show we can play this game,” adds Sehmbi. “We want to be the best hockey 5s nation at this Olympics.”
Athletes taking part in the National Selection Camp have been a part of regional identification camps, however, this will likely be the first exposure to a daily training environment for many of them.
Training will be daily and the players will take part in a special United Brothers Hockey 5s tournament at Tamanawis Park in Surrey on July 19 and 20.
“These guys are very good athletes, they were picked to fit 5s,” says Sehmbi. “We want to see that they’re physically fit and ready to go. They’re going to be in a very difficult environment with the heat (in China).”
The camp will serve as an opportunity to bring athletes from different teams and parts of the country together, as well as refine the tactics around the Hockey 5s version of the game.
“In terms of the actual camp itself, a lot of game play, a lot of different types of small games,” adds Sehmbi. “The guys from out west aren’t familiar with playing with boards, and the guys out east aren’t familiar with playing such a large pitch and playing indoor rules on an outdoor surface.”
The Youth Olympic Games begin on August 16 and run until August 28 in Nanjing, China.