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Hockey’s road to 2012

The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team and the SA men’s side have received clarity on the new London 2012 Olympic Games qualifying route open to them.

ÔÇ¿The SA women will be taking part in an Olympic Qualifier in Delhi, India from February 15-26, a tournament where the winner will earn a berth in London. The SA men have the option to play in an equivalent tournament in Kakamigahara, Japan from 25 April┬á to 6 May.

According to International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Hockey Federation (FIH) rules, the SA teams have already qualified for London after they won the Africa continent’s men’s and women’s Olympic Qualifier tournaments in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe two months ago.

Earlier this year, SASCOC deemed the African continent’s standard of play not good enough to justify sending the SA hockey teams to London, should they win the gold medals in Bulawayo, and made an additional stipulation that the sides must reach the final of the respective Champions Challenge tournaments this year in order to earn their places in the Team South Africa contingent for the 2012 Olympics.

Due in part to a new preliminary round system, the SA women ended fifth in the Champs Challenge in Dublin, Ireland five months ago. As Africa champions, head coach Giles Bonnet’s SA women have handed their official 2012 Olympic berth to the highest-ranked country in the world that did not win its own continental qualifier tournament, world number two Argentina, who suffered a shock defeat to the USA in the recent Pan-American Games final. In turn, the SA women now take Argentina’s place in the February Olympic Qualifier event in Delhi.

The SA men take part in their Champs Challenge event in Randburg from November 26 to December 4. Should they reach the final, head coach Gregg Clark’s side will not go to Japan. However, should they not win a spot in the gold medal match, the SA men will have another chance to qualify for London at the Japan tournament.

They will take world number four and Beijing 2008 silver medallists Spain’s place in Kakamigahara, Japan in five months’ time. Spain did not fare well enough at their European continent qualifier tournament to earn a direct ticket to London.