The men’s and women’s Junior World Cup competitions will be bursting into life towards the end of the year, with teams from the Pan American region represented in both the men’s and women’s competitions.

In the men’s competition, four teams from PAHF will be competing at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, India. Argentina and Chile both qualified by virtue of their first and second place at the Junior Pan American Championship which took place in Santiago, Chile. They will be joined by the teams that finished third and fourth at that event, USA and Canada, who were late qualifiers after the withdrawal of New Zealand and Australia. The two Oceania nations were forced to withdraw because of continuing Covid-related travel restrictions. 

The women’s event will see Canada, USA, Uruguay and the reigning champions Argentina competing at Potchefstroom, South Africa. 

For the Canadian women, who won the Junior Pan American Championships for the first time in the event’s history, this will be a seventh appearance at the World Cup. To date, their highest finish was seventh, back in 1989. Most recently, they finished 14th in 2013, but Head Coach Patrick Tshutshani will be looking for a higher finishing position this time around.

‘This is a great opportunity for these girls to test themselves against the world’s best at this age group,’ said the South African. 

USA has been a regular competitor at the World Cup, only missing out on qualification in 1993. An eighth place finish in 2016 saw many of the current senior team cutting their teeth among the best junior players in the world.

Head Coach Tracey Paul has named the 18-athlete roster for competition and is looking forward to the challenge ahead: ‘We have selected a very talented group, but, as we all know, that is only part of the equation that makes a successful team. We have a training camp prior to leaving that will allow us to develop the cohesion, culture and spirit necessary to get through the challenges that lie ahead of us in this tournament. I am looking forward to getting this group together again so that we can build on the relationships and hockey that started to develop in Chile.’

For Uruguay, this will be a new chapter in the South American country’s hockey history. A third place at the Junior Pan American Championships means Uruguay will be making a debut appearance in South Africa. In preparation for the event, the Uruguay team are training every day.

For one of the Uruguay team – defender Elisa Civet – preparations are slightly unusual as the athlete is studying in the USA. She is training with her college team, but like her national team mates, her training is intensive. 

‘I am training for four hours a day with the college team and we play two times at the weekend. I will join the squad but for now, I am doing this with my college team.’

Her team mate and fellow defender, Pilar Oliveras says that the whole team is determined to show the world that Uruguay are a serious player on the international stage. ‘When we get onto that world stage, we will have an opportunity to show what Uruguay hockey is about.’

Following the qualification event – the Junior Pan American Championships – Oliveras acknowledges that her team will need to find a way to score goals if they are to do well in South Africa – they only scored two goals in the entire tournament. ‘We know our defence is well prepared,’ she says. ‘Now we need to make sure we score goals too.’

Argentina women will go to South Africa with the weight of expectation on their shoulders. But they have a lot to live up to. The squad that won on 2016 was packed with exceptional players who have gone on to grace the senior international scene. Sofia Toccalino, Eugenia Trinchinetti, Agostina Alonso, Julieta Jankunas, Maria Granatto and Agustina Gorzelany all now have Olympic silver medals to add to their Junior World Cup gold medals. 

‘It was an event that helped make me the player I have become,’ was the verdict of FIH Rising Star nominee Gorzelany, who excelled as a drag flick specialist at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. 

In the men’s competition, Argentina will be leading the charge of PAHF teams. This will be the team’s 11th appearance at the event, with their most successful years being 2001 and 2005 when they finished second and then first. A fifth place finish in 2016 saw the Argentine young lions knocked out in the quarter-finals by Belgium. The match ended 1-1 but Belgium won the resulting shoot-out.

At the same event, Canada finished in an ignominious 16th place. This year will be both Canada and Chile’s sixth appearance at the event. Chile last competed on the junior world stage in 2009 when they finished 17th. 

At time of writing, Canada’s Head Coach Indy Sehmbi was working with his coaching staff to train and evaluate the athletes ahead of selection. 

In an interview for the Field Hockey Canada website, the Head Coach said: ’We have a very deep squad and a lot of parity throughout our lineup of identified athletes. It’s a coach’s dream to have such a strong group of athletes.

‘It’s a luxury for us to have such a diverse and deep athlete group. This is more than just one selection camp, it’s a culmination of several years of prep.’

The fourth nation to be heading to India is the late qualifier, USA. 

This will be the north American country’s third shot at glory at the Junior World Cup and they have an experienced hand at the helm with Pat Harris as Head Coach. Fortunately, most of the athletes who participated in the Junior Pan Am Championship were available for the late call up.

‘With the majority of the Junior Pan American Championship team returning, a few additions have been made, but I think there is a nice balance between young talent and experience, and I believe with this group we can continue to develop a competitive international playing standard,’ said the multi-capped USA athlete.

In readiness for their trip to Bhubaneswar, the USA squad will attend an intense training camp in California from 6-15 November before travelling to India the next day.

Further PAHF involvement sees Catalina Montesino of Chile, Victoria Pazos of Paraguay, Frederico Garcia of Uruguay and Tyler Klenk of Canada umpiring at the showcase junior events in South Africa and India. 

We caught up with Klenk as he was preparing for the event in India. The prospect of umpiring in the hockey-mad country was something he was really relishing: ‘I have heard all kinds of amazing stories about tournaments in India from colleagues around the world. We have all watched tournaments online with huge packed stadiums and amazing crowd participation, so I am very intrigued to go and experience first-hand the amazing hockey atmosphere the Indian fans provide. Big tournaments in India are always a pinnacle of umpiring, and I am thrilled to be apart of this event.

‘Given the restrictions of the last two years, and the lack of international hockey, I am extremely excited to be heading to India,’ says the Canadian umpire. ‘This has been my longest stretch without an international appointment, and I am beyond thrilled to be appointed to the Junior World Cup.

‘This event will present a great opportunity to showcase my skills as an umpire. The JWC is one of the biggest FIH events, and will give me a opportunity to see how I match up with some of the top umpires from across the world. Given my age and my experience level, I think this event could help to propel me to accomplish my umpiring goals , hopefully pushing towards bigger and better events.’