South Africa: SA Hockey's Path to Olympics Uncertain Despite Qualification

Cape Town — The national men's and women's hockey sides have secured qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics , but that alone might not be enough to see them given the green light by SASCOC to represent Team South Africa.

Both national teams secured their paths to Tokyo by winning the African Hockey Road to Tokyo 2020 series in Stellenbosch over the weekend - a continental tournament that doubled up as an Olympic qualifier - but SASCOC still has the power to dash their hopes.

It is a situation that is looking increasingly familiar, with SASCOC having omitted hockey from their Olympic team for Rio 2016 despite both sides having secured qualification.

While the qualification criteria from an Olympic and FIH perspective has been met, SASCOC has their own set of criteria that looks at how the sides fare internationally in determining whether they will be realistic medal contenders at the Olympics.

The SASCOC criteria reads as follows:

GENERAL ELIGIBILITY AND SELECTION CRITERIA FOR MULTI-CODED GAMES (2018 - 2024)

Continental Qualification

3.1.1. Continental Championships/ Qualification Events shall be considered and agreed to between SASCOC and the NF with minimum requirements as set out by the IF;

3.1.2. Additional criteria will be set by SASCOC considering the following:

3.1.2.1. Competitiveness of the sport on the African Continent;

3.1.2.2. Number of countries participating in that sport;

3.1.2.3. International rankings of individual athletes/ Teams;

3.1.2.4. Most recent results of individuals or teams in the particular sport;

3.1.2.5. Performance History of the athlete/ Team.

There is also separate criteria specifically aimed at the hockey sides, and that reads:

SASCOC will consider selection of the Team if qualification is:

1.1 Continental qualification will only be considered if the Team wins the continental qualification event and has attained a Top 2 finish at the Hockey Series Final OR

1.2 Attained directly through the FIH Olympic Qualification Event;

1.3 Deadline for qualification will be 4 November 2019.

The long and short of it is that SASCOC has the final say on whether or not the national hockey sides go to the Olympics.

"We are not going to take athletes who cannot hold their own on the international stage," SASCOC High Performance Commission Chairperson Debbie Alexander told Sport24 on Tuesday.

"We want to take the best of the best to the Olympics."

The men's side is currently ranked 14th in the world while the women are 16th , while both are currently comfortably on top of the African rankings.

The men's side, meanwhile, did finish second at an FIH Series Finals event, though, when they won silver in Bhubaneswar. That is part of the SASCOC criteria, strengthening SA Hockey's case to get the men to Tokyo.

The women's side finished 4th in Valencia.

The final decision, though, still lies with SASCOC themselves and if they deem that the world ranking and global standing of the side is not up to scratch, then they can say 'no'.

Marissa Langeni , CEO of SA Hockey, believes it would not be fair, particularly with regards to the men's team.

"Now that the team have qualified through the FIH process we will be further engaging SASCOC on the way forward," Langeni said.

"We have obviously submitted to the policy as to their requirements and we await to hear their feedback.

"We have met the FIH criteria and, specifically in the men's, we've met the additional criteria set by SASCOC.

"As per the agreement, there is a Clause 8 in all of the contracts, which states that SASCOC still reserves the rights in confirming the composition of Team SA.

"It's still exclusively in the hands of SASCOC."

Langeni confirmed that SA Hockey would be engaging with SASCOC at every possible level to try and secure a ticket to Tokyo.

"The opportunity to attend an Olympic Games is massive for South African hockey on the world stage," Langeni said.

"Over the years both teams have shown that they have the competitiveness to play on the world stage.

"It would be detrimental to our sport if any of our teams were not given that opportunity and given the fact the we missed out in 2016, it would not bode well.

"I'm hopeful that SASCOC will do the right thing and that, given that the men have met the criteria, they will consider them for being part of Team SA."

Langeni added that SA Hockey was "exploring one more avenue" with regards to the women's side and their chances of earning Team SA SASCOC selection for Tokyo, but that it was an "internal" process at this stage.

Source: Sport24

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