With apologies to the Beatles, the Canadian national team’s largely self-funded dream of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has seen the team getting by with a little help from its friends.
But family and friends can’t help you on the pitch. That has all been done on the players’ talents alone. The team has now advanced through the first two rounds of Olympic qualifying. The last round in Valencia, Spain, was funded through $82,000 raised in an online crowd-sourcing campaign.
“It was humbling and very special to receive that support from across the country,” said veteran Canadian team player Maddie Secco, an Oak Bay High grad, who played NCAA in the Pac-12 for Stanford.
Canada will play in a best-of-three qualifier in the fall against a team to be determined with the winner advancing to Tokyo 2020. There is another avenue through the upcoming 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru, with the gold-medallist advancing to the Tokyo Olympics.
Not only was the team cut off from Own the Podium national funding this year, ostensibly because only recent success is rewarded and the program hasn’t been to the Olympics since 1992, but head coach Giles Bonnet is funded by the national federation only through the end of the Pan Am Games and not through the fall’s Olympic qualifier.
Having to keep an eye on fundraising as well as the ball on the field, the team will hold a fundraiser and Pan Am Games send-off party Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Strathcona Hotel, in which supporters can meet the players and talk about all things field hockey and Olympics. Tickets are $30 adult and $15 students.
The team will break camp at UVic and head to Lima on Friday. The Pan Am Games begin next week.
“Thinking about our financial situation can be overwhelming but we can’t let it affect our play,” said rising 19-year-old Canadian player Anna Mollenhauer of Victoria, daughter of two-time Island field-hockey Olympian Nancy Charlton.
“We are aware of it but have to put it on the back-burner now and narrow our focus to the field from now until the fall. We feel we have a very good chance. It’s going to be an exciting couple of months,” added the UVic Vikes star, and 2018 U Sports player of the year.
Those thoughts were echoed by veteran Canadian team captain Kate Wright.
“Our favourite place is between the white lines on the pitch, but the fundraising part is, unfortunately, the reality for us,” said Wright, the daughter of former Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis.
“We have found so much support in Victoria that it has been jaw-dropping.”
Among the local groups stepping into the breach to support has been 94 Forward, which administers the legacy fund from the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games.
Wright said qualification for Tokyo 2020 would not only be gratifying for the veteran group that has worked so long and hard toward the dream of the Olympics, but also for the emerging players. She pointed to Mollenhauer, who was named top young player of the previous Olympic qualifying tournament in Valencia.
“Anna has quite a legend in her mom but is rounding seamlessly into her own,” said Wright.
“She is a quiet girl who plays a big game.”
The lineage helps. Mollenhauer’s mom Nancy is now co-manager of the national team.
“I’ve learned so much from my mother, both on and off the field, about hard work and commitment,” said SMUS-grad Mollenhauer.
SHORT CORNERS: James Kirpatrick of Victoria and the men’s national field hockey team has also advanced to the point of having two shots to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics — either by capturing gold at the Lima Pan Am Games or by winning a best-of-three series this fall against an opponent to be decided.