These past two weeks, the Mexican Hockey Federation has been hosting the Pan American Junior Championships in Guadalajara, a qualifying event for next year's Junior World Cup. With 11 women's and 13 men's teams, it has been the biggest tournament ever hosted in the Pan American region.
With the tournament drawing to a close on Sunday, FIH.ch took the opportunity to sit down with Mexican Hockey Federation President María del Carmen García Orozco to talk about the event and hockey in Mexico.
Q: Carmen, tell us a little about this event.
It is fantastic for us to be able to host this competition, we are really happy that the Pan American Hockey Federation has given us this opportunity. Guadalajara hosted the Pan American Games last year, and part of the legacy was this venue, and we were very keen to keep using it, so we offered to host the Pan American Junior Championship. This was also a very good opportunity for the Mexican Hockey Federation to have two teams participate - if the tournament had been elsewhere, and we would have had to travel, we probably couldn't have afforded to send two teams.
Q: The event has 24 participating teams, the biggest tournament ever hosted in the Pan American region.
Yes, that was a surprise! We expected 12 teams, maybe 16, based on what the tournaments in the last few years had, but never this many! But of course we are absolutely thrilled with the success, that so many teams want to play and participate. It is good for this competition, and good for Pan American hockey. And also, we are excited to host Guatemala for their first ever international matches and tournament, it is a great step for them.
Q: It must have been hard work to organize an event this big?
Absolutely, it has been a challenge, but we are very happy with how things worked out. The tournament has been running very smoothly most of the time, and the teams are happy, that is important. Our cooperation with CODE (the Jalisco State Sports Council) has been excellent, they have been managing all transport requirements, and things have gone very well. We are also grateful to the Pan American Hockey Federation who has provided provided support to organize and manage accommodation and other areas. The Mexican Hockey Federation is a small federation, we couldn't have done this on our own, but as a joint effort, it has all worked out well.
Q: How was the interest for this event amongst the media and general public?
It was quite good, yes. There has been a fair amount of media interest, but the timing is a bit difficult, as it is still the summer holiday period. The spectator numbers have been in line with our expectations, and we've had a successful school programme, with school classes coming to visit and see our sport. The kids were very, very excited to be here and enjoyed it very much.
Q: How do you see your teams' performance at this event?
To be honest, it has been a little behind the expectations. Our teams have been living and training together in Mexico City since February, so we expected a better performance in this event, but we recognize that the teams lack match practice. We are very happy for this opportunity to play because being in camp and training isn't enough. Most of the time, we have barely any opportunities to play other teams, because we can't afford to travel much.
Q: The senior men's team will be playing in the new Hockey World League soon, what are your expectations?
We are definitely looking forward to the tournament in California, it is another good opportunity for us to play and get match practice. Part of the team from this event will go on directly from here, joining a pool of 40 more players, and from that group we will select the team for World League. The aim is clearly to challenge the USA in the tournament final, and hopefully we can make it to Round 2!
Q: And after World League, what does the future hold for the Mexican national teams?
Well, the junior players who have been competing here will join the senior teams, since they didn't qualify for the Junior World Cup, unfortunately, and we will keep training. After World League, there is the Pan American Cups next year, our continental championships, in August in Canada for the men, and in September in Argentina for the women. We are happy we qualified with both men and women and are hoping to see some good results, but they are strong tournaments - it is the best eight teams in the Americas, and you have to play Argentina and Canada and the USA. A big goal for us is the Central American and Caribbean Games, in July 2014. They will be played in Mexico, in Veracruz, and serve as a qualifier for the Pan American Games the following year. Our goal is to qualify for Toronto 2015 with both our teams.
Thank you, Carmen, and congratulations on a successful 2012 Pan American Junior Championships in Guadalajara!
For full coverage of the Pan American Junior Championships, including results, pools, match summaries, photos, videos and more, please visit the website of the Pan American Hockey Federation.
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