Argentinian Lionesses claim (Las Leoncitas) the nation’s first Olympic title in women’s hockey and Malaysia’s men upset the odds, as new, shorter format is hailed as ‘fantastic’
Argentina shrugged off the pressure of being hockey 5s favourites in their home Youth Olympic Games and looked like they were just having fun as they beat India 3-1 to win a historic gold for their nation.
“We are the first female hockey players to win an Olympic gold for Argentina,” said Brisa Bruggesser (ARG), who struggled to make herself heard above cheering fans in the packed stands at Youth Olympic Park. “I can’t describe how I feel right now.”
Argentina’s women have had a series of Olympic Games near-misses, claiming 11-a-side silver medals at Sydney 2000 and London 2012, and bronze at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. A silver at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games was followed by bronze when hockey 5s was introduced at Nanjing 2014. But on a hot afternoon at Buenos Aires 2018, they finally got their hands on that elusive gold.
Before the Lionesses secured their victory, Malaysia’s men, known as the Tigers, defied all expectations to claim gold, twice coming from behind to beat India 4-2.
“I’m surprised we won the gold medal, to be honest,” said Amirul Azahar (MAS). “This is the first time we qualified to an important event and we were not expecting this. I think the key was our fighting spirit.”
Argentina’s men defeated Malaysia in the group stage but had to settle for bronze, beating Zambia 4-0, while China dismissed South Africa 6-0 in women’s bronze medal match.
Although hockey 5s made its debut at Nanjing 2014, the shorter format was speeded up for Buenos Aires 2018, with matches reduced from three periods of 15 minutes to two of 10. “This is the hockey of the future,” said Carlos Retegui (ARG), head coach of Argentina’s men and women. “It’s fantastic. Very attractive and visual for the fans. There are a lot of goals, it’s fast. It’s also appealing for TV broadcasting.”
Retegui, who represented Argentina at Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004, added: “I’ve really enjoyed these tournaments”.