The hockey world celebrated two years to go until the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games today as stars of the game looked towards Japan's showcase event that will take place between 24 July and 9 August.
Many Olympians and future stars are currently competing in the which concludes on 5 August. Despite their focus being centred on this year's ultimate prize, Olympic ambitions are becoming increasingly relevant as the days count down to 2020's pinnacle event.
"The Olympics are so special because it's that one massive event we all watched when we were growing up. It's only once every four years and everyone really gets behind all the sports."
Helen Richardson-Walsh, Rio 2016 Gold Medallist, Great Britain
Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist from Great Britain, Helen Richardson-Walsh, has now retired but as a Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games Athlete Role Model, she knows just how important the Olympic Games are for athletes. She said: "The Olympics are so special because it's that one massive event we all watched when we were growing up. It's only once every four years and everyone really gets behind all the sports. And for us (English athletes), it's extra special as we get to represent Team GB and have the entire country behind us. I have many amazing memories from the Olympics that will remain with me forever. "
Currently competing in London, one of Japan's rising stars, Yui Ishibashi, admitted she is looking forward to a home Olympics. She said: "We are super excited that hockey is coming to Japan in two year's time at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It will be such an opportunity to showcase our sport. The whole squad is super excited at the thought of playing hockey in front of a home crowd in two years. We are so proud of our shirt and we have and a lot of comments about how beautiful it is (in London). We want to make everyone proud of the Cherry Blossoms at the Tokyo Olympics."
Another London World Cup competitor and Rio 2016 Olympian, Australia goalkeeper Rachael Lynch said: "It took me three cycles to get to an Olympics, Rio was my first. I put a lot of work in to get there. I learnt from each experience. It's really exciting going to Olympics but the preparation is key. Two years to go, that's pretty exciting."
Argentina’s Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist Gonzalo Peillat also shared his ambitions for Tokyo 2020. He said: “I’m really excited about the prospect of reaching my third Olympic Games and will be hoping my previous experience can provide confidence to some of the younger members of the squad. My ambition is always to win – it’s something that I'm not willing to negotiate in any aspect. Of course it’s going to be difficult to win the Olympic gold medal back-to-back after Rio, but what is better than a challenge like that?”
FIH CEO Thierry Weil added: “Whilst our focus is currently on the Vitality Hockey World Cup London 2018, excitement for Tokyo is already growing within our sport. The success of this event is a direct result of Great Britain women’s success in Rio, which has propelled the sport to unseen levels. We look forward to continuing this momentum for the next two years as we get ready for what will be an incredible Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.”
In the past few days, the official session schedule for the hockey events were revealed by the host organising committee following approval by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Taking place between 25 July and 7 August, the hockey events will be held at the new Seaside Park Hockey Stadium within Oi Central Seaside Park in the Shinagawa area of Tokyo.
Like Rio, this venue will contain two competition fields. With a 10,000 seat capacity the main field will host many matches including the medal games - the men's on the 6th and women's on the 7th of August. A second field with 5,000 seats will also host a number of the Pool matches.
The Japan Hockey Association will use these facilities as a legacy performance venue to develop the very best talent in the nation following the Olympics.
As with the previous Olympic Games, the hockey events will comprise of an 'Equally Amazing' line-up, with 12 men's and 12 women's teams taking part. These will include the winners of the Olympic Qualification Events in November 2019, the new Continental champions and the hosts Japan.
As an overview, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games sees an action-packed programme, featuring a record 33 sports and 339 events, running from 24 July until 9 August 2020.
Tokyo 2020 will use a total of 42 venues, including 24 existing, ten temporary and eight new permanent venues. These will include three venues in Fukushima, Ibaraki, and Miyagi prefectures, which were among those most affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
The competition schedule by session outlines the start time and finish time of each session, and is subject to change. The more detailed schedule by event will identify the individual times of specific events (e.g. heats, semi-finals, finals, classification matches) that will take place within each session. The competition schedule by event will be announced by the spring of 2019. For details of the schedule, please visit: https://tokyo2020.org/en/games/sport/olympic-schedule