The Pan American Olympic dream sleeps in Valencia, Ranchi and Oman

January 12, 2024

The Pan American Olympic dream sleeps in Valencia, Ranchi and Oman

A new year has begun, but the same excitement persists as in the last four seasons: being part of Paris 2024. One process ends, and another begins, in a loop, with the five rings as the goal. Argentina is the only Pan-American country with a secured spot in both women's and men's categories, thanks to the gold achieved in Santiago 2023. However, the list of countries from this continent may increase.

From January 13 to 21, the men's and women's teams of Chile and Canada, along with the women from the United States, will have the opportunity to play in the Pre-Olympics and write another chapter. However, not everyone would have the same title: only The Devils and The She-Devils could achieve it for the first time in history, adding a magical and exciting touch.

In the Valencia , the Canadian women's team, led by the golden duo Danny Kerry and Kate Richardson-Walsh from Britain (champions in Rio 2016, with him as the head coach and her as the player captain), will participate. Richardson-Walsh now shares all her experience and wisdom with the team dreaming of the event in France: "We have done everything possible to prepare for this tournament, and they are very excited to start. We want to qualify for the Olympic Games like all the teams here. We will do everything to achieve it," said the player with almost 400 international caps, currently serving as an assistant coach. Regarding what she conveys to the team based on her experience, Kate shared, "The only thing you can do as a player is to work the best you can for the team on that day. Work hard for your teammates, stay united, and trust the process. The rest will take care of itself."

Canada (16th in the ranking) will face Great Britain (England is 7th), Spain (8th), and Malaysia (18th) in their group. If they manage to finish in the top two positions, they will advance to the semifinals. Like other tournaments, this one also grants three spots for Paris 2024.

In Ranchi, India, two American teams are fighting for qualification: the women from the United States (15th) and Chile (14th). Amanda Golini leads the American team with 134 international caps, sharing thoughts on facing this challenge in a group with the host (6th), Italy (19th), and New Zealand (9th). "There is a lot at stake, but we must take it one game at a time, one play at a time, one moment at a time. Now it's about seizing our opportunities and enjoying playing together as a team!" reflected Amanda. She added, "We have to be brave to take risks and go for the goal. It won't be perfect, but we believe this group is capable of anything. It is an honor to represent our country and have the opportunity to compete for a place in the Olympic Games."

Denise Rojas Losada will play her second Pre-Olympics wearing the Red jersey, but there is something different this time: Chile's ambition is greater. In the previous one, facing Tokyo 2020, they had to play, home and away, against Great Britain, which had won gold in Rio 2016, and that was fully reflected in the two defeats they suffered within 24 hours. "Now, with a better ranking and a group stage, we believe the chances increase; we depend on ourselves and not on whether the opponent has a good or bad day. It is a tournament that is played with intelligence, and you have to know which battles to fight. For this year, we come with superior preparation," explained the player who made the first goal for Chile in the 2022 World Cup.

The She-Devils (14th), under the protective mantle of Sergio Vigil, will play against Germany (5th), the Czech Republic (25th), and Japan (11th) in their group.

Oman could witness a historic event. Jorge Dabanch's team wants to achieve what no Chilean team has ever achieved: go to the Olympic Games. The goal is significant, and for that, they trained so hard that it also earned them the first silver medal at the Pan American Games in Santiago 2023. Andrés Pizarro is one of the leaders assigned by the coaching staff. "A few days away from having a new opportunity to qualify for Paris, I feel a great responsibility to show that we don't give anything away, and we are becoming better competitors at a higher level every day. There are no secrets to high performance; if the door to the Games opens for us these weeks, it would be a dream come true, and if we don't achieve it, we will continue forward because it will happen at some point," Pizarro reported from Muscat.

Both Chile (22nd) and Canada (17th) will have to face Germany (5th) and New Zealand (11th) in Group B.

Matthew Sarmento is one who experienced the last two Olympic tournaments in which Canada participated (2016 and 2020, in 2021) and knows that the effort is truly worthwhile. "We are confident, prepared for the tournament, and aiming for the third consecutive Games. We understand that there is a difficult mountain to climb, but we are ready and will face the task head-on. Our penalty corners, our defensive rhythm, and our attacking ability will be the keys to success. Also, we are a united group, and this bond remains on the field. We can trust each other to do the job," he shared during training.

The excitement is too great. Paris is the goal for these teams. America does not want only one representative in France. Argentina needs a continental companion. Chile, the United States, and/or Canada could be there. Will they achieve it?"

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