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Island field hockey players get second chance to play for Canada in Junior World Cup

Women’s Junior World Cup has been rescheduled for April 2-13 in South Africa
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Canadian junior national field hockey team players from the Island arrive at Victoria International Airport last month. From left, Stefanie Sajko, Tayler Guy, Jenna Goodman, Nora Struchtrup and Libby Hogg.

It was the announcement, simultaneously offering a chance to play and hope for a better spring overall, that five Island field hockey players wanted to hear.

“We’re so excited. The whole team lit up this morning when we heard the news,” said ­goaltender Tayler Guy.

The women’s Junior World Cup has been rescheduled for April 2-13 in South Africa. ­Victoria players Guy, Stefanie Sajko, Libby Hogg, Nora Struchtrup and Duncan’s Jenna Goodman were part of the ­Canadian team stranded in South Africa for nearly a month after the sudden emergence of the Omicron variant postponed the originally scheduled World Cup dates of Dec. 5-17 and cancelled most of the commercial flights out of the country. The Canadian team had arrived in South Africa on Nov. 21. A flight was finally secured Dec. 8 to Canada from Johannesburg through ­Frankfurt.

The new World Cup dates in April will conflict with university exam periods in Canada. But arrangements can be made and that’s something that can be worked around. Sajko, Hogg and Struchtrup play for the national-champion University of Victoria Vikes, Guy for the University of Calgary Dinos and Goodman for the UBC Thunderbirds.

“After going through being stranded and stuck like we were last month, I think we can get through that [possibly writing exams online],” said Guy.

Other nations have other conflicts that will need work arounds.

“We’re aware that the new dates are challenging for some nations — in particular because of Ramadan or the European club calendar — but it was essential for FIH [world governing body Federation International Hockey] to fully support the wish of the athletes to play. We’re looking forward to a great event with hockey’s female rising stars,” FIH CEO Thierry Weil said in a statement.

The new dates are also ­subject to the world pandemic conditions in the spring.

“We realize that, but are still happy to know there is a new date set and it’s in sight,” said Sajko.

“We were so close in ­December. I can’t imagine the feeling of what it’s going to be like to finally pull on a Canadian jersey in a World Cup.”

Canada qualified for the Junior World Cup in South Africa by winning the Americas’ regional qualifying tournament in September in Santiago, Chile. The Canadian junior team players are being prepared for the 2024 Paris, 2028 Los Angeles and 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games.

“The Olympics are my dream and I know they are for the rest of our players, as well,” said Guy.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com