Luciana Aymar came to The Hague with huge hopes for a fourth World Cup medal and the expectations of a hockey-loving nation on her shoulders. Unfortunately for Luciana and her teammates, the superstar – who has been voted FIH Player of the Year an unprecedented eight times – picked up a hamstring injury in the second game of the tournament and has not been able to impose herself on this competition in the way she, or Argentina, would have wanted.
A medal is still within Argentina's grasp, however the colour will not be the one that Luciana or her teammates were hoping for. An unexpected second place finish in the pool, behind the USA, meant that Las Leonas faced the Netherlands in the semi-final, and the result was a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the seemingly unstoppable Dutch. After the match an inconsolable Luciana sobbed at the press conference, saying: "I have trained so hard for this; it is my last World Cup and I wanted to do so well, but I got injured. I feel I have let everyone down." For the spectators, the sight of the great player sporting a bandage the length of her thigh and clearly unable to move easily was a sad sight, made all the more poignant because when she did get the ball, she still performed magic. It really was a case of "what could have been."
The Argentinian's must now prepare for a bronze medal showdown with the young pretenders to a World Cup medal, the feisty and energetic USA, whose approach to this World Cup has earned them plaudits from all corners. But while Luciana's star seems to be on the wane, there is no doubting the influence she has had on the world of women's hockey since she first burst onto the world stage in 1998. We take a look back at her glittering career.
Luciana caught the public eye in 1998 when she competed in her first World Cup at the age of 16 – the youngest Argentine ever to do so – but the precociously talented player had first started playing when she was just seven for Club Atlético Fisherton, in her native Rosario. She moved to Jockey Club de Rosario six years later. Eventually, she began training with the junior national team, for which she had to travel every day to Buenos Aires. In 1997 she was part of the national team that won the Pan American Games Junior Championship, and a year later she debuted with the senior national team, finishing fourth at the World Cup.
Since then, in a medal-filled international career spanning 16 years, Luciana has won two World Cup gold medals (2002, 2010); two Olympic silver medals (2000, 2012), two Olympic bronze medals (2004, 2008); five Champions Trophies gold medals (2001, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012); three Pan American Games gold medals (1999, 2003, 2007) and Pan America Cup goal medals (2001, 2004, 2013).
In The Hague, Luciana has not had the World Cup tournament she was hoping for. She may leave with a bronze medal if Las Leonas manage to beat USA and, despite her injury, Luciana is determined to play, telling the crowd of journalists at the packed press conference that "yes, I will definitely be playing." But it is not the ending that the player deserves after her long, glittering World Cup career. As the banner that sits in the hockey village at the Kyocera Stadium proclaims: "Aymar – the best player in the world for, like, forever."
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