Ellen Hoog and Janneke Schopman both have a cabinet full of medals with a distinctly golden hue. But while Ellen will be hoping that the Netherlands bring home gold again in the Hague this year, Janneke's loyalties will be split. The former Dutch star was a pivotal part of the Netherlands team from 2000 to 2010. She played in three Hockey World Cups, and has won a World Cup Gold medal, an Olympic Gold and a clutch of Champions Trophy golds. She is now assistant coach to the USA hockey team and will be hoping her winner's aura can spread to her players. But, she will always treasure the memories she has of winning medals as part of the successful Netherlands hockey team.
For current Netherlands star, Ellen, the thought of playing in front of a home crowd has made this an extra special year of hockey. Like Janeke, she is playing for a Dutch team that has hit a rich seam of consistency, with back to back Olympic gold medals, and and there is little doubt that Ellen and co will be favourites to lift their seventh World Cup.
With just under two months to go before the start of the Rabobank Hockey World Cup we spoke to Janneke and Ellen about their own World Cup memories and their expectations for this year's event.
FIH: What are your own favourite memories from the World Cup?
JS: In 2002 I played my first World Cup in Perth, and only then I realised how special a tournament the World Cup is. My favourite memories are scoring a field goal in the opening game and the atmosphere in Perth overall. In Madrid, in 2006, it was made even more special because all my family and a lot of friends were there. Away from the pitch, some of my favourite memories are of chilling and chatting with my teammates or watching Gooische Vrouwen in our own Holland House. My last World Cup in Argentina was special because of the intensity. My favourite memory is winning the semi-final after being 1-0 down. A lot of people already thought we were done, but we came back and won on penalty strokes.
FIH: Can you describe what it is like to wear the orange kit and represent your country?
EH: Of course I’m really proud to wear the orange kit! I can’t describe the feeling, but every match is special for me. I think it’s always an honour to play for your nation. I’m lucky to be born in a country where my favourite sport is popular and from a high level. This gives me the change to compete on the highest international level and play with some of the best players in the world.
FIH: How are you hoping to use your experiences to best effect when preparing the USA team for the World Cup?
JS: As a player, the most important thing is that you can play your best hockey when it counts. Because I had the experience myself, I know there is a lot of pressure to perform. But it is also important that players feel comfortable – it is important to recognise what players like, dislike and what is necessary for them to be ready for each game. I hope I can help the team to be prepared in the best way they can be.
FIH: What qualities do Dutch players have that make them so consistently good?
JS: We were a team, where each individual had their own qualities and value for the team. Everyone played their vital part, no more but also not less. Also I think we had open communication and it didn’t matter who scored as long as we won.
EH: Hockey in the Netherlands is a very popular sport, especially for women. Children start playing hockey here when they’re around six years old. We have a good education system with strong youth leagues. This prepares the talents for playing for the national team. And our domestic league is a world-class level.
FIH: What qualities do you see in the US team today?
JS: I see a lot of determination. The girls work hard and are continuously busy improving themselves and the team. The team is working to develop a strong culture and identity. I have watched video footage of the team from their recent performances. There are some obvious strengths and some exciting opportunities to work on certain areas to improve and be even better.
FIH: How have the Dutch preparations for this event gone so far - should all the other teams be worried?
EH: Haha, of course the other teams should be worried! No seriously, we are preparing ourselves really well. The staff and group of athletes we are working with, are all really professional and dedicated.
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