This past summer in Toronto when Canada’s men’s field hockey team officially qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games by beating Brazil in dramatic fashion, Philip Wright was there to take it all in.
Coming from a family of Olympians, competing in the Games has been Wright’s ultimate goal. But when his teammates booked their ticket to Rio, Wright wasn’t on the field with them. He was watching from the stands.
In the year leading up to the 2015 Pan American Games, Wright did not compete with the Men’s National Team. Instead, he was in Oregon completing the first year of a two-year Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at the University of Oregon.
“It was a tough decision to go down there last year obviously with Pan Ams right around the corner,” says the twenty-nine year-old native of Vancouver. “But it was something that I had to do.”
That meant, through one of the most important years in his field hockey career, Wright would be on the sidelines.
The veteran forward – like a handful of his teammates – was at a place where planning for life after field hockey was becoming a bigger priority. So he made the decision to head south and go back to school – in an Olympic qualification year to boot.
“The coach was really good to me and gave me the opportunity to try and do both things at once,” Wright adds. “And the guys stepped up and got the Olympic qualification.”
While he wasn’t with the team in person, Wright was still on the roster, watching from afar as his teammates went through a grueling year of competition before it all paid off.
For Wright, watching wasn’t easy. But when Canada qualified for the 2016 Olympics, it became evident that there was only thing he could do.
After consulting his family and friends, he decided to put his MBA on hold and re-join the Men’s National Team full-time, with the hopes of cracking the field hockey team Canada will send to Brazil next August.
“This is something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid growing up,” he says. “My parents are both Olympians, my grandfather is an Olympian, so the Olympic dream has always been a part of my life.”
It’s a dream he nearly realized seven years ago, when Canada last competed at the Olympic Games.
In 2008, Wright was in his early twenties and – on a team full of veterans, including his older brother Anthony – he was not selected to the Olympic team that would compete at the Beijing Games.
“I was one of the young guys on the team and perhaps took it a little bit for granted,” he says looking back. “I’m definitely approaching it a little differently this time around, with a little bit more maturity. I just want to make sure when I look back on it, I left it all out here.”
With his experience the last time around top of mind, Wright knows his spot at the Olympics is not guaranteed. But he’s willing to work for it and he’s off to a good start.
He was recently named to the Canadian team that will compete at the 2015 International Hockey Federation World League Final in Rajpur, India from November 27 to December 6.
Canada will compete against seven other teams, all of whom qualified through their placing at the World League Semifinals this past summer. The Canadians – ranked thirteenth – will be facing seven of the top eight teams in the world.
“It’s going to be extremely exciting,” he says. “There’s definitely going to be some really good competition, but I think it’s exactly what we need nine months out from the Olympics.”
While Wright has been back training with the team since before the Pan Am Games, it will be his first competition in more than a year. One of many to come in the year ahead, ending once and for all with a trip to the Olympic Games.