Field Hockey Canada > Indoor veteran Hapuarachchi headed to second World Cup

This article was originally published in the Orleans News. Click here to view source.

Malinda Hapuarachchi, who grew up in Orléans, will take on European powerhouse teams as a part of Team Canada in the upcoming Indoor Hockey World Cup.

Hapuarachchi plays indoor field hockey, which she started after an impulse tryout during her first week as a Grade 9 student at Cairine Wilson Secondary School.

She played with a competitive club in Ottawa, and eventually went to the University of Toronto, which is known for having a strong field hockey team.

“That one decision to try out for that (high school) team really shaped the rest of my life,” Hapuarachchi said.

She played for the U of T Varsity Blues in Toronto, and now as a PhD student still at the school, acts as the team’s assistant coach.

She played outdoors with the Varsity Blues and for other teams and was briefly a part of the outdoor national program, but has found her competitive niche in the indoor game.

The now 31-year-old is still a force to be reckoned with on the court, and will head to her second World Cup, which takes place in Leipzig, Germany, the first week of February.

She’s the only member of the team that travelled to the 2007 World Cup; Canada didn’t qualify in 2011.

The Canadians have to win at the Pan American Cup the year prior to the World Cup in order to qualify. The Canadian team won in 2014; a team that Hapuarachchi couldn’t play on because of academic commitments.

Indoor field hockey, a four-on-four sport played on a court, is very popular in Europe – especially Germany and the Netherlands, where Hapuarachchi played for several months after finishing her undergraduate degree.

She compared the European clubs to Canadian ice hockey clubs, with multiple courts and competitive divisions.

“Indoor is growing for a lot of the European teams,” she said. “And in Europe, everyone is so close to each other, it’s very easy to compete. In Canada we’re more isolated. To get to international competitions, it’s a lot more cumbersome.”

The Canadians are going into the tournament ranked ninth of the 12 teams, so they have realistic goals, including improving their position on the international stage.

Hapuarachchi said the team aims to have strong play in the opening rounds of the tournament and finish in the top eight – which would mean upsetting higher ranked teams.

Not all Canadian national teams receive funding from Sport Canada; indoor field hockey is an unfunded sport. It means training, travel and competition costs fall to the athletes themselves, many of whom have full time jobs or studies to deal with at the same time.

“You do it because you love it and you want to play at the highest level possible,” Hapuarachchi said. “It takes a lot of time and money to do these things.”

While there’s a chance this may be her last World Cup as she prepares to finish her studies at the University of Toronto, Hapuarachchi doesn’t see field hockey ever leaving her life.

“I feel like I’m going to be one of those people who will be involved in field hockey in some capacity for my entire life,” she said. “If it’s coaching, or if it’s being an old lady at 65 trucking around the field with my stick.”