THE national women’s team could earn a late entry into the final round of the Olympic qualifiers in October at South Africa’s expense.
As expected, South Africa recently won the men and women’s continental events to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics next year.
However, their women’s team may have to forgo their Olympic dreams as the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) have strict qualification criteria.
In 2016, SASCOC barred their men and women’s hockey teams together with their women’s rugby sevens squad from competing in the 2016 Rio Games, despite them qualifying on merit.
“SASCOC’s strict guidelines might see the South African women’s team withdrawing from the Olympic women’s competition in Tokyo.
“If this happens, the final qualifier could become a 16-team event with eight playoffs.
“And Malaysia will be among the 16 teams and will play England, Germany, New Zealand or Spain,” said national coach K. Dharmaraj yesterday.
The national women’s team finished third in the Hockey Series Finals in Ireland in June but due to their World No 20 ranking, Dharmaraj's charges will have to wait for the outcomes of all the continental championships before knowing their fate.
An ‘Inside the Games’ article disclosed that SASCOC have additional conditions for their hockey teams to fulfil before they can play in the Tokyo edition.
“Under the regulations, the continental qualification ‘will only be considered if the team win the continental qualification event and attain a top-two finish in the Hockey Series Finals or (if it is) attained directly through an Olympic Qualification Event.”
South Africa finished second in the men’s Hockey Series Finals while their ladies finished fourth.
“It could be enough for their men’s squad, but the women appear set to miss out,” Dharmaraj added.
South African Hockey Association (SAHA) chief executive Marissa Langeni said on website https://www.insidethegames.biz/: “We have met the FIH criteria and specifically in the men’s, we’ve met the additional criteria set by SASCOC.
“The opportunity to attend an Olympic Games is massive for South African hockey on the world stage.
“Over the years, both teams have shown that they have the competitiveness to play against the best,” she added.
SASCOC, however, appear to be firm at this stage, with Debbie Alexander, chairperson of the SASCOC high-performance commission, disclosing to Sport24 recently that they would not send “athletes who cannot hold their own on the international stage.”