Friday, 22 August 2008

The Top Of The Mountain

The women's field hockey competition came to a close at the 2008 Beijing Olympics yesterday, and there were some surprising finishes to this fantastic event. The gold medal was won by a powerhouse while the silver medal went to a team that wasn't figured to have a shot at the top medal prizes. All in all, this was an excellent showing of athleticism and determination by all the women in this tournament, and they undoubtedly have made their respective countries proud. We'll work our way backwards towards the gold medal match.

11th-Place Match: South Africa vs. New Zealand

The two winless squads in the women's competition battled for the 11th-place spot in the tournament. Marsha Marescia put the South African women up by one with a goal in the 14th minute. New Zealand responded in the 22nd minute to tie the game 1-1 on a goal by Caryn Paewai. However, before the half ended, Jennifer Wilson restored the one-goal lead, allowing the South African team to enter the halftime break with a 2-1 lead. Two more South African goals in the second half allowed the South African women to win the 11th-place match. It has to be slightly disheartening for both squads to finish where they did, considering South Africa's 6th-place finish in Athens and New Zealand's 9th-place finish in 2004. However, both squads played hard in every game - a testament to their determination.

And despite what The Sports Network says, Russia did not defeat New Zealand. Considering that Russia didn't even have a team entered in either the men's or women's events, this kind of error makes you wonder where some sites copy-and-paste from.

9th-Place Match: Japan vs. South Korea

The South Korean women established an early lead off a goal by Jeong Sook Park at the 12-minute mark. Park deflected a Seon Ok Lee hit on a penalty corner into the goal to start the Koreans off on the right foot. The first half was largely uneventful and both teams appeared to be quite lethargic. The Koreans carried the 1-0 lead into halftime. Japan looked a little more energetic after the break, and were rewarded with a goal by Rika Komazawa at the 43rd minute. However, the Koreans went up by one goal again thanks to a Jeong Sook Park deflection at the 49th minute. The Koreans pressured the Japanese team for most of the remaining time, but were unable to add to their lead. At the final whistle, it wouldn't matter as South Korea earned the 9th-place victory by a 2-1 score over Japan.

7th-Place Match: Spain vs. USA

Spain really pushed the tempo of this match in the early stages, and their efforts paid off at the 8-minute mark as Esther Termens converted a well-executed penalty corner. This early score seemed to wake up the Americans, though, and they began to impose their will towards the end of the half. Dana Sensenig scored on a rebound in the 30th minute to even the score at one goal apiece, taking Spain and the USA into halftime deadlocked at 1-1. The second half saw the Americans carry the play, causing Esther Termens, Carrie Lingo and Nuria Camon to pick up yellow cards during a 10-minute timeframe. The Americans capitalized on the Spanish squad's lack of discipline when Angie Loy scored at the 59-minute mark. However, Spain forced extra time when Raquel Huertas' reverse stick hit found the back of the goal in the 68th minute.

Much like in regulation time, the Spanish team came out strong looking for the early "golden goal", but the Americans weathered the storm and began to wear down the Spanish team. In the 89th minute of the game, Spain's Rocio Ybarra scored the golden goal off a penalty corner to give Spain a 3-2 victory over the Americans, and the 7th-place finish in the Beijing Olympics.

5th-Place Match: Australia vs. Great Britain

Both teams were looking to avenge heart-breaking losses by winning the 5th-place match, but it was Australia striking first. In the 29th minute, Madonna Blyth scored for the Australians. The game see-sawed back and forth throughout both halves of play. However, the Australians struck again in the 68th minute as Hope Munro scored to add the insurance marker for the Hockeyroos, and seal the deal for the Australians to end in 5th-place at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Bronze Medal Match: Germany vs. Argentina

The second-ranked team in the world, Argentina, against the third-ranked team and defending Olympic gold medalists, Germany. Sounds like it would be a match made in heaven for organizers, except this was the bronze medal match. Both teams were looking to secure a medal for their respective countries, but it was the "Leonas" who came out firing. Argentina's Rosario Luchetti deflected a penalty corner hit at the 11th minute to open the scoring, and Carla Rebecchi gave the Argentinian squad a two-goal lead at the 23rd minute. Argentina's strong play in the first half led them to a 2-0 lead by the break, but the Germans came out strong in the second half as they looked to erase the deficit. Anke Kuehn put Germany on the board in the 45th minute with her goal, and reduced the lead to one goal. However, Noel Barrionuevo scored in the 63rd minute to restore the two-goal cushion. Germany was 0-for-3 on penalty corner chances in the second half, and it appeared that those missed opportunities cost them the game. Argentina wins the match 3-1, and takes home the bronze medal. This was Argentina's third Olympic hockey medal, having won a silver medal in 2000 at Sydney and a bronze in 2004 at Athens.

Gold Medal Match: Netherlands vs. China

It wasn't to be expected, but the sixth-ranked Chinese squad advanced through to the finals against the powerhouse Dutch team. The host team were outmatched in this one, despite playing some of their best hockey in the previous game. However, the Chinese women managed to hold the powerful Dutch team at bay, and entered halftime at a scoreless draw. Naomi van As finally got the Dutch side on the board by converting a penalty corner in the 53rd minute to post the Netherlands to a 1-0 lead. The Chinese women battled hard to try to equalize the game, throwing everything they had at the Dutch. However, in the 62nd minute, Netherlands' Maartje Goderie made the Dutch's lead 2-0. Despite their best efforts, China couldn't crack the Dutch defence, allowing the Netherlands to claim the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with a 2-0 victory.

Final Standings
1. Netherlands
2. China
3. Argentina
4. Germany
5. Australia
6. Great Britain
7. Spain
8. USA
9. South Korea
10. Japan
11. South Africa
12. New Zealand

My thoughts on the women's field hockey event are all good. There were some phenomenal games played between these teams, and every team gave it their all in each game I watched. In no way should any of these women be disappointed with their efforts because this writer thought that the athleticism displayed was second to none. All of these teams will be world powers for decades to come with showings like this.

Congratulations to all the women who participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympic field hockey games! Congratulations are also in order for the gold medalist Dutch women, the silver medalist Chinese women, and the bronze medalist Argentinian women!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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