The summer of 2015 was as eventful as any in recent memory for most of the members of the Canadian Women’s Field Hockey Team.
The Women’s National Team captured bronze at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Ontario in July, the first time the team has medaled at the Pan Am Games since 1999, when the Games were last held in Canada.
But along with the highs came some lows.
Having not qualified through the World League competition earlier in the year, the women needed to win gold at the Pan American Games to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
After falling short of the ultimate goal, it would be understandable if the prospect of another four-year cycle and the chase for Olympic qualification in 2020 were daunting.
But that’s not how the leaders of the team see things.
“We’re in a really good place,” says team captain Kate Gillis, who is among the veterans on the squad. “This group that we have right now is really young and together we can do great things.”
Gillis and assistant captain Thea Culley are among the longest serving players on the team and are the as excited as anyone at where the program currently stands.
“It’s disappointing to not be going to the Olympics but exciting to know that we’re in a good spot to prepare for the next four-year cycle,” says Culley, who – at 29 – is the oldest and most capped player on the team with 142 senior international matches to her name.
Culley is just as excited now as she has ever been to wear the red-and-white.
“We’ve done a really good job over the last few years of building a culture where people want to be a part of the team and it’s exciting to play for Canada. I still want to do that.”
The Pan Am Games bronze medal is a perfect example of the strides the Women’s National Program has taken in the last two years.
Typically one of the youngest teams in each of the tournaments it competes, the success the team has seen serves not only as a sign of a job well done, but motivation to continue on the same path.
“To finish with a medal at a major games was such a great feeling,” adds Gillis. “I think that really put the spotlight on our team for once. I think people really want to come and be a part of the program.”
With Canada hosting a Women’s World League Round 2 event in 2017, the Women’s World Cup set to take place in London in 2018, the Pan Am Games in 2019, and the Olympics in 2020, the next four years will be as eventful as the ones preceding. And the Canadian Women’s Field Hockey Team has plans on staying in the spotlight during all the fun.
Currently, the women are training in small group in Vancouver, with their University teams, and club teams around the world. The full squad will re-convene in Vancouver in the New Year for the official start to the next four-year cycle.