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News for 24 August 2020

All the news for Monday 24 August 2020

Indian men’s hockey coach Graham Reid opens up about time spent in quarantine By Chitrangada Dc

Bengaluru: On returning to the Sports Authority of India, Bengaluru Campus earlier this month, the Indian Men's Core Probable's Group underwent a two-week mandatory quarantine which ended earlier this week.

During this period, the players were tasked with an activity that invigorated their Olympic goal. Talking about their time in quarantine, Chief Coach Graham Reid said, "During the last two weeks, we used the time to learn about India's extraordinary Olympic history."

The players, most of whom often use video games and Netflix as pass-time, were tasked with an assignment to present to the group over video conference their learnings from these individual stories and how they can implement these learnings as a team going forward in their quest for Olympic success.

"The players' job was to study a number of the Olympic stories and present to the group their individual learnings and what can we use as a team going forward. Going through quarantine together is something we will be able to utilize during our journey over the next 12 months," stated Reid.

Wednesday onwards, the core group began basic sports activities with focus on aerobic base. The next few weeks will be more about planning and realigning player's development over the next few months. "We will be using these next few weeks to work on everyone's development plan and focus on skill development while we can improve their aerobic base," said Reid further adding that the action and decisions they make as a team will determine how they fare in Tokyo.

"I reminded the players that every action and decision we make will help us to either get closer to our Olympic goal or further away from it and told them of the importance of the next few months in this journey," he said.


JHF engages Argentinian hockey coach

Athena Clarke

Fabian Stewart, President of the Jamaica Hockey Federation (JHF)

President of the Jamaica Hockey Federation (JHF) Fabian Stewart says the federation will be working closely with Argentinian coach Pablo Mendoza during the off season as they look to increase youth development opportunities in the sport.

Mendoza is a world-renowned hockey journalist, who has also been coaching for over 15 years.

Stewart told The Sunday Gleaner that the JHF had made plans with Mendoza to work with the youth players during their Saturday development programme.

However, because of the constant threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and Mendoza’s inability to travel, players will be provided with the opportunity to interact with him virtually.

“We are just waiting to finalise the document and we want him to start reviewing some of the youngsters that are playing,” Stewart said.

“We are trying to put measures in place for sustained development, individual technical development and enhance information in terms of players’ knowledge base of the game (as well as) coaching sessions that can be done virtually and remotely,” Stewart added.

During these sessions, Mendoza will be tasked with instructing the coaches while teaching the young players the various elements of the game to keep some level of momentum during the off season.

“What he would do is have the youngsters set up their cameras and do drills that he would possibly recommend and that information would be sent to him through the coaches,” said Stewart. “We are trying to interface him with particularly the junior national players, so he can assist them in terms of technical development.”

Stewart added that the business of hockey will continue despite the challenges and that the JHF will create fresh ideas to keep the players and coaches engaged.

“We’re not really stopping. We are trying to find innovative ways to allow groups or individuals to be able to be seen by international coaches to try to continue to develop the players,” he said.

While the players and coaches interact with Mendoza remotely, the JHF will be working with the Ministry of Sport to design a safe plan to resume training this year.

“As it is now, we can’t hold any competition and we are just now putting together our protocols and making changes to the hockey field in order to try and facilitate small training sessions,” he said.

“We have to ensure that while we are looking at the development of the athlete, we have to focus on the safety of all stakeholders involved with the sport.”

The Jamaica Gleaner

Black Stick Megan Hull finds solace in green grass of home

Suzanne McFadden

Black Stick Megan Hull in action against China in Christchurch last year. Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Gutted not to be at the Olympics, Black Stick Megan Hull returned home to the paddocks of Pongaroa - and rediscovered the joy of grassroots hockey.

It’s not quite the field Megan Hull imagined she could have been on - more a flat sapphire blue than a rolling emerald green.

It was Hull’s dream that in August 2020, she’d be running out onto the artificial turf of the Oi Central Seaside Park Sports Forest, in Tokyo, kitted out in the Black Sticks dress trying to win Olympic gold.

But fate intervened, the Olympics were postponed, and Hull instead found herself running through the grass fields of her family’s 1000-acre (400ha) farm in Pongaroa, a rural settlement in the Tararua district.

This isn’t an escape; Hull is happy in either environment. In fact, for the past week, the Auckland-based player has alternated between helping introduce new calves into the world and training with some Black Sticks team-mates in Palmerston North.

The unflinching defender, a revelation in her comeback into the Black Sticks last season, openly admits she was “gutted” when the Olympics were put off for a year. She was an obvious contender for the New Zealand team in Tokyo.

But Hull found solace returning to her roots – and the family farm – in level 4 lockdown. And as fortune would have it, she’d just left home in Auckland and headed south again the day before the latest rise in Covid-19 levels.

Black Stick Megan Hull has gone back to her roots while the Black Sticks have been out of action. Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

By no means has she abandoned her Olympic dream. She’s keeping up her hockey fitness - managing to run over the farm, play for her sister’s club side, and train alongside New Zealand hockey icon Kayla Whitelock and up-and-coming internationals.

“There have been ups and downs through all this,” 24-year-old Hull admits. “But you go back to the people who support you, who ride the wave with you. Spending time with my family, who mean the world to me, has really helped me get through this.”

Hull knows, too, that she’s supported by the 400 or so good townspeople of Pongaroa, who’ve been known to gather to watch her Black Sticks matches live at the local pub. The most famous resident before her was probably Maurice Wilkins (born in Pongaroa in 1916) who won the Noble Prize for his role in discovering the structure of DNA.

The Hulls’ sheep and beef farm - roughly 200km north-east of Wellington - is a little off the beaten track. “You’re cut off from everything, there’s no mobile reception, so it’s a bit of a sanctuary,” Hull says. “I’ve been so grateful to be surrounded by so much space.”

This is the corner of New Zealand where she grew up, first picking up a hockey stick when she was four. Her earliest memories of the game are playing six-a-side on the grass fields in Eketahuna with her mum as coach. “If we wanted to play on the artificial turf, we had to shoo the sheep off first,” Hull recalls.

Aussie Brooke Peris of Australia is challenged by Black Stick Megan Hull in Sydney last year. Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

The youngest of four kids, Hull’s two sisters played hockey, and her rugby-playing brother Joseph spent hours throwing a ball with her on the back lawn. “I could have been this annoying little person – there was quite an age gap between them and me - but they were just so lovely to me,” she says.

She moved to Masterton as a boarder at Wairarapa College, where her hockey career took off. She was 15 when her first XI won the Federation Cup – the national schools title – and she made the Junior Black Sticks at 16.

But Hull’s path always came back to the land. In the holidays, she found jobs on farms or with the local shearing gang – as a rousie picking up the shorn fleece. During summer breaks from studying at the University of Waikato, where she majored in public relations and agribusiness, she came home to help her brother-in-law milk cows.

Now she’s back on a dairy farm in Ashurst, just outside Palmerston North, where her sister, Wendy Ridd, and her husband are share farming.

“I’ve been out and about on the farm helping. It’s been amazing to see them in action during calving season – it’s such a crazy busy time and it’s pretty inspiring to see how hard they work,” says Hull. She and her partner, Geoff, spent the weekend with her parents at Pongaroa, just over an hour’s drive away.

Hull has also been “taken in” by the High School Hockey Club’s premier women’s side, where her sister is the player-coach.

Black Stick Megan Hull was playing arguably her best hockey before Covid-19 struck. Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

“It’s been the best – the fun, the friendships, the pure enjoyment. It’s just so cool to be playing again,” says Hull. The Black Sticks last turned out on March 1, beating world No 3 Argentina in Christchurch, before the pandemic brought the world Pro League to a standstill.

“When you strip it all back, you play because you love it. And getting to play hockey with my sister is special - I’ve been wanting this to happen for a long time.”

When she’s been back home in Auckland, she’s played for the Takapuna club in the North Harbour competition.

Now Hull has returned to the Manawatū, she’s working out with a clutch of Black Sticks team-mates in the hub set up in Palmerston North - including goalkeeper Georgia Barnett, young striker Olivia Shannon and 256-test veteran Whitelock.

Some sessions are run by Whitelock’s younger sister, Verity Sharland – a former Junior Black Stick and now a coach on the rise.

“There’s such a wonderful crop of younger players in this region and I’ve been very lucky to play and train alongside those girls,” Hull says. “And I’m learning so much spending time with Kayla. She’s such a legend, on and off the field.”

Hull and Whitelock will be team-mates again in the new Premier Hockey League, created out of Covid to give the country’s top players turf time, and doubling as trials for the August 2021 Olympics. The league was due to start last week, but with all the games at the new national hockey centre in Auckland and the city sitting at level 3, it too has been postponed.

Hull’s yet-to-be named team covers the lower North Island. “We could be The Country Battlers,” she quips. “I really hope it goes ahead. There’s such a great buzz around the competition, and it will be an amazing showcase of hockey.”

Maybe not as amazing as an Olympic hockey tournament.

Black Stick Megan Hull fights for a loose ball with American Kathleen Sharkey in Pennsylvania last year. Mitchell Leff

“Like for so many other athletes, it was super disappointing when it was postponed, and it took some time to get over that,” admits Hull, who was arguably playing the best hockey of her career.

Black Sticks coach Graham Shaw describes Hull as an honest, hardworking hockey player with “a huge future ahead of her” in the Black Sticks.

“Megan is an outstanding person who carries herself well and has an ability to connect with everyone in the team,” he says. “She brings an authentic approach to her hockey.”

Hull first made the Black Sticks after the Rio Olympics in 2016, played four tests but was then dropped from the squad.

She moved to Melbourne, playing for the Southern United club – “I found my love for hockey again there” – and was recalled into the New Zealand team at the start of 2019 for the first season of the Pro League.

“Perspective is really key for me,” says Hull. “Yes, it was really gutting and the team had been working hard towards a common goal. But I think about people who are losing their jobs, and have to pay mortgages and feed their kids, and I’m like, ‘You’re okay, Megan’.

“Obviously there’s a bit of you that thinks about the Olympics, but I try hard to stay in the moment. It would be such a massive honour for me and my family to go to the Olympics - it represents so much that others have put into me becoming the major battler that I am.

“I seriously can’t believe that I’m even in the Black Sticks. But if I could contribute to the team to do something that no other Black Sticks women’s team have done before [and win an Olympic medal], it would be a great privilege.”


Island Hockey do the double

Anmar Goodridge-Boyce,

Island Hockey, who played unbeaten in the women’s competition, celebrating their rousing success. (Picture by Kenmore Bynoe)

Island Hockey are double crown champions of the 2020 Barbados Hockey Festival.

With a decent-sized crowd at the Wildey Hockey Centre, Island Hockey defeated both Du Badd Crew (DBC) and A Badd Connection (ABC) 1-0 and 2-0, respectively, to be kings and queens on a heated Sunday afternoon.

After a very pacey opening quarter, Barbados’ best national male player, Akeem Rudder, gave Island Hockey a deserved lead in the 15th minute, scooping the ball past Dario “Superman” Greenidge at the top right corner and into the back of the net, triggering celebrations from the spectators.

ABC offered little offence, with leading goalscorer Shaile Babb alone up front for the 50-minute contest. It was no surprise when Island Hockey doubled their advantage on the verge of the half-time whistle.

Nation News

Former and current players demand Bharat Ratna for Dhyan Chand ahead of hockey legend's birth anniversary

The discussion was part of a digital campaign which was launched by former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, actors Babushaan Mohanty and Rachel White last year to demand 'Bharat Ratna' for Major Dhyan Chand.

Former and current players demand Bharat Ratna for Dhyan Chand ahead of hockey legend's birth anniversary

Former and current hockey players came together to demand Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian award, for the legendary Major Dhyan Chand, a week ahead of his 115th birth anniversary.

With National Sports Day approaching, greats such as Gurbux Singh, Harbinder Singh, Ashok Kumar and current player Yuvraj Walmiki took part in a virtual discussion on Saturday to celebrate the life and career of the iconic player.

National Sports Day is celebrated on 29 August, on the birth anniversary of Dhyan Chand.

The discussion was part of a digital campaign which was launched by former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, actors Babushaan Mohanty and Rachel White last year to demand 'Bharat Ratna' for Major Dhyan Chand.

"For us Dhyan Chand was God. We were lucky to travel with him to East Africa and Europe for a month-long tour. It is difficult to find such a nice man and a great player. He was the most complete player ever born," said Gurbux Singh, an Arjuna awardee.

The 85-year-old also shared his experience of being a part of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

"We had lost gold in 1960, so we wanted to get it back. After winning the gold for India, I had tears in my eyes while seeing the tri- colour go up slowly with the national anthem being played in the background. It really made me feel proud of doing something for India," he said.

Talking about Dhyan Chand, Harbinder Singh said, "I have a lot of regards for 'Dada'. I had a best timing of 10.8 in 100m, so I had advantage of speed. He told me that I should keep the ball in front of me as it will help in pick up but I should have control. I practised on it and took it as 'guru mantra'."

Arjuna awardee and Dhyan Chand's son, Ashok Kumar also shared some unknown facts about his father.

"He used to stop me and my elder brother from playing hockey. The reason for which we later realised was that he worried about the lack of financial incentives in the sport," Ashok said.

He also narrated anecdotes from the final match of Berlin Olympics 1936 that India won.

"It was raining heavily for which the final match got postponed to August 15, 1936. In the first half, India had scored only one goal, which was quite easy for the opponent to defeat," Ashok said.

"Before the second half of the match, Major Dhyan Chand and legendary player Roop Singh removed their shoes and played barefoot for 35 minutes to get the control of the ground both of them scored seven goals.

"By the time the match ended in Berlin, the stadium was empty as India defeated Germany with a score of 8-1 in front of Hitler."

Talking about the influence of Dhyan Chand, Valmiki, who played in German League for eight years, said: "Hockey in India is equal to Major Dhyan Chand. Even after 100 years it will be the same, it is the greatest pride for me. When I played in Germany, every person used to tell me that I come from the land of Major Dhyan Chand."

The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Harbinder said it will affect India's momentum.

"Had the Olympic not been postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic, India would certainly be medal contenders. Now however, the momentum has gone. Am doubtful about how India will fare next year," he said.


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