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Island field hockey players set to chase gold and Paris Olympic berths at Pan Am Games

Pan Am Games go next month in Santiago, Chile
Anna Mollenhauer will play for Canada at next month's Pan Am Games in Chile. FIELD HOCKEY CANADA

Win and you’re in. It doesn’t get any simpler or more direct than that.

That is the formula to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics for Victoria field hockey players James Kirkpatrick, Kathleen Leahy, Anna Mollenhauer and Sara Goodman of Duncan named Tuesday to the Canadian men’s and women’s teams for the 2023 Pan Am Games next month in Santiago, Chile. Also named were University of Victoria Vikes products Keegan Pereira, Matthew Sarmento and Brenden Bissett. Alexis de Armond and Harbir Sidhu, both of Victoria, were named as travelling alternates.

The field hockey gold medallists in Santiago will qualify for the Paris Olympics. The field hockey finals at the Pan Am Games almost always come down to Canada versus ­Argentina. It was no different at the last Games in 2019 at Lima, Peru, as Argentina won gold and Canada silver in both men’s and women’s.

The silver and bronze medallists will earn spots in world last-chance qualifying tournaments to be played next year.

“You always want to play in meaningful games and it doesn’t get any more meaningful than this,” said Olympian Kirkpatrick, the Oak Bay High and UVic Vikes grad, a 32-year-old new father, who is a software engineer with EA Sports

“We have a good blend of youth and experience with 10 returning players from the Tokyo Olympics. We are going to have to tap into our identity as a tough defensive team that is hard to score against, and then take our chances [on offence]. A lot of the games will be decided by one goal and it will be a matter of gaining that extra inch at the goal line.”

Canada is better known for the hockey played on ice but the Canadian men also have a tradition on turf and have qualified for the past two Summer Olympics at Tokyo and Rio, and also at Beijing in 2008 and Sydney in 2000, the Beijing and Sydney appearances which included ­current B.C. housing minister Ravi Kahlon of Victoria.

The Canadian women have not been to the Olympics since the heavily Island-tinged team at Barcelona in 1992. But there is great optimism for Paris 2024 with the likes of SMUS-grad Mollenhauer, who led the UVic Vikes to four national titles in her U Sports career, moving up to the senior team from the ­junior national team.

Two-time Olympian Nancy Mollenhauer of Victoria, mother of Anna Mollenhauer, will be the Canadian men’s team manager in the Santiago Games and Carrie Trumpy of Victoria the women’s team manager.

“These Games are very important for us. Both our men’s and women’s teams have great shots [of winning golds and the Olympics berths],” said Nancy Mollenhauer.

“But you take it one game at a time.”

The 2023 Pan Am Games run Oct. 20 to Nov. 5 in the Chilean capital. The field hockey players will join the more than 60 Island or Island-based athletes who will compete for Canada in the ­Santiago Pan Am Games. Island athletes won 17 medals in the 2019 Lima Pan Am Games.

GAMES NOTES: Étienne ­Papineau of St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que., who won PGA Tour Canada’s 2023 Royal Beach Victoria Open presented by the Times Colonist in June at Uplands, was named Tuesday to the Canadian golf team for the Santiago Pan Am Games with Myles Creighton of Digby, N.S., Alena Sharp of Hamilton and Selena Costabile of Thornhill, Ont.

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