Border hockey stars go for gold

AFRICAN ACHIEVERS: The SA women’s hockey team celebrate their Afcon win against Nigeria on November 5. Pictures: SUPPLIED

East London hockey players Bianca Wood and Antonet Louw are taking Border to the 2024 Olympics after SA claimed victory at the African Road to Paris 2024 games in Pretoria on November 5.

The continental competition saw both SA men and women emerge as victors with the women destroying Nigeria 9-0, followed by a close victory of 2-1 for the men against Egypt.

Wood and Louw’s side dominated the tournament for the women, emerging comfortably out of their pool to obliterate Ghana with a 7-0 victory in the semifinal as a warm up for their subsequent thrashing of Nigeria.

The SA sides with gold medals in tow, have joined Australia, the Netherlands, India, China, and Argentina as direct qualifiers for the Olympics while the remaining six spots will be hotly contested in January 2024 among the other nations who failed to win their qualifier tournaments.

On November 24-26, Louw and Wood will take to the turf against Germany in Cape Town for the first of several Olympics preparation series games over the next few months.

Louw credits the team’s work ethic for their Afcon win and is excited to be able to showcase Border’s excellence to the world.

She said the team’s aim going into Afcon was to keep up their pace and intensity, and to raise the standard of play against other African nations.

She believes SA’s men and women claimed their gold medals because of the excellent coaches and administrators, who work tirelessly to give the teams exposure to competitive international games despite being financially constrained.

Louw said: “Our Afcon win gave us belief and confidence in our abilities and revealed to us our strengths.

“It showed us that we have the capacity to be champions and it encouraged us to trust in the hard work we have been putting in.

“SA’s women are going into the Olympics as underdogs especially after our great series against China and Chile earlier this year. The other nations don’t know what to expect from us and it’s making them weary.”

Border Hockey president Nick Flavio said: “Their [Louw and Wood] perseverance and dedication is inspirational and lights up the path for others from Border to follow.

“They [Wood and Louw] are truly inspirational. We wish the team, and in particular Bianca and Antonet, all the very best and we know they will carry the torch with immense pride.”

Border Hockey hopes to enable an environment for more SA players to emerge from the region, however challenges with facilities continue to hinder progress.

Flavio said plans for preparation for next year’s IPT have been ‘disastrous’ with urgent repair work being delayed at BUCO Astroturf and engineers condemning the masts and the premises, preventing any hockey from being played.

This has disrupted Border Hockey’s plans to roll out a summer league that would have prepared players to defend gains made for Border at last year’s IPT, with some teams gaining qualification to Group A for the first time in almost 10 years.


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