GUADALAJARA, Mexico - The dream of competing in a Pan American Games is an inconceivable pursuit for most. A small percentage of athletes will make it to the Games once in their lifetime, and a minute few will be fortunate enough to find their way back.
But, to represent your country in four consecutive Pan Am Games is an out of the ordinary accomplishment and a truly remarkable feat that very few Americans have achieved.
Patrick Cota (San Francisco, CA) and Shawn Nakamura (Camarillo, CA) are on the doorstep of making history for the USA Men’s program in Guadalajara. That is, they are one of only a few players in the United States to compete in over 100 international hockey competitions and attend four back-to-back Pan American Games.
“It is a great achievement and always something special to have the ability to partake in a Pan American Games as part of Team USA,” said Cota.
To achieve 100 caps is a milestone in the Men’s program and an extremely commendable achievement. Cota and Nakamura both joined the Men’s National Team in 1999 and have been a permanent fixture and a steady leader on the field for the last twelve years.
“Pat and Shawn's strengths are that they provide experience and consistency in their performance,” said Head Coach Nick Conway. “All teams need experienced players to provide leadership in the pressure moments on the field and to keep the group humble and level away from the pitch. Both Pat and Shawn provide these assets to our group. They are extremely level headed and provide a stable point from which the other personalities within the group can thrive.”
Despite the number of Pan Am appearances, neither have ever made it to the podium… yet. The best finish Cota and Nakamura have been a part of was in 1999 when Team USA took fifth. More important than a medal in Guadalajara though, is the opportunity to gain an Olympic berth. Only the gold medalist will earn one of the twelve highly coveted tickets to London next summer. The teams that finish second through fifth place be given one final chance to qualify at an Olympic qualifying tournament in early 2012.
“We have a goal that we have set for the tournament that we want to place ourselves in the semi-finals and are looking for a spot on the podium this time,” said Cota.
To achieve that goal, Nakamura says the team is “focusing on one game at a time. We have to play with confidence and trust our preparations, which have been excellent and a good mix of training and competition leading up to the Pan Ams.”
If anyone deserves a medal and a chance to making history at these Games it would be Cota and Nakamura who have dedicated over a decade to the sport and Team USA.
“It is an outstanding accolade to both Shawn and Pat and all of those competitors who have achieved over 100 caps and competed in multiple Pan American Games as it illustrates their dedication to their sport and highlights their professionalism to their craft over an extended period of time.”
When asked if Nakamura foresees a fifth Pan American Games in his future, he commented “Four years is a long time from now. It would be nice to play in another, but I’m focused on doing well in these Games before I look any further.”
Team USA will face Cuba in the first match of the Pan American Games on Thursday, October 20.
USFHA media release
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