The Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC) in Lusaka, Zambia, hosted a five-nation hockey tournament this month for young men and women from Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe to compete for a place at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) taking place in Nanjing, China, this August.
A key part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Sport for Hope programme, the OYDC welcomes thousands of youngsters every month and seeks to promote and facilitate access to sport for athletes and local communities.
Over the course of the five-day tournament, crowds from all five nations filled the multi-sport complex to cheer on their respective teams battling it out on the field. South Africa confirmed its status as pre-tournament favourites as both the men and women took first place. Host nation Zambia was also victorious as the home-grown talent made history to secure their place for Nanjing 2014.
“We have watched these young men and women walk into the Olympic Youth Development Centre without any knowledge of the existence of hockey,” enthused the Director of the OYDC, Clement Chileshe. “And now, three years later, they have qualified for their first ever major international sporting event!”
A proud mother of a Zambian player said: “The games were excellent. They have made not only us parents proud, but also the nations.”
The Zambian hockey team will be joined on their road to Nanjing by some of the nation’s top young swimmers and rising judo stars Joshua Nyondo and Nokuthula Banda.
“From the beginning, we have said hockey is the team sport we could aim for at the YOG and I was keeping my fingers crossed that this three-year plan would prove fruitful,” added Chileshe.
It certainly has! These young African hockey teams will not only get to showcase their skills at the YOG, but they have also boosted the profile of youth sport across their nations. Good luck at Nanjing 2014!