The men’s and women’s teams of Argentina are the subject of the latest of our FIH Spotlights series, with the two behemoths of Pan American hockey more than capable of challenging for the title at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
‘Las Leonas’ (The Lionesses) have long been considered as one of the world’s most fearsome attacking teams and are undisputedly a true powerhouse of the game. Since the 2014 retirement of eight times FIH Player of the Year Luciana Aymar – unquestionably one of the greatest players in the history of the sport – Argentina have claimed numerous titles, including the 2016 Champions Trophy, the 2017 Pan-American Cup and the 2019 Pan American Games, with the latter sealing their spot at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. As one of the very few teams in world hockey to have beaten reigning World, European and FIH Hockey Pro League champions the Netherlands in recent years, they will feel that the gold medal is certainly within the realms of possibility.
For decades, Argentina’s men were hidden in the long shadow cast by the remarkable achievements of their female counterparts. A bronze medal at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup 2014 in The Hague (NED) changed everything, with Los Leones (The Lions) going on to claim Olympic gold – something that even Las Leonas have not achieved – at Rio 2016. Can they defend their title in Tokyo? With inspirational coach Carlos Retegui – who is also overseeing the women’s team in Tokyo – at the helm alongside Mariano Ronconi, you wouldn’t bet against them.
Ahead of Las Leonas’s title challenge in Tokyo, we spoke to penalty corner ace Agustina Gorzelany about how preparation for the competition have been going.
Agustina Gorzelany, thanks for talking to us! The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is so close now, and [as we talk] your team are in Valencia [ESP] for your final training camp before arriving in Tokyo. How are you and your squad feeling ahead of the Games?
Agustina Gorzelany: “It has been great for us to come here to Valencia, to have these international matches to get into a good rhythm and increase our confidence in these times of covid. In Argentina we couldn’t play many matches, so for us it is very important to start having these international games. We need to be better every day if we are to get to Tokyo in the best way we can.”
It will be your debut Olympics, which must be incredibly exciting. You must be very proud of representing Argentina with Las Leonas at the Olympic Games.
Agustina Gorzelany: “Yes, I cannot believe it. I’m living a dream. As days pass, we are nearer to the first game, getting excited and really looking forward for Tokyo to start.”
When you arrive, you face a pool containing Australia, New Zealand, Spain, China and Japan, the hosts nation. You start your campaign against New Zealand on 25th July. What are your thoughts about the pool and how important is it to finish as high up the standings as possible ahead of the cross-over quarter-finals?
Agustina Gorzelany: “I think that all teams are going to be tough, all are training as hard as we are. I think they are all going to be very strong opponents, no matter which group you are in. What is most important for us is to win every game to be first in the pool, and then we can have quarter-final which might be better for us. I think that it is very important for us to end up first in the pool.”
Are you and your team feeling confident about your chances of success in Tokyo?
Agustina Gorzelany: “Of course! We all think that we can reach what we are dreaming [about], but I think we need to take it step by step, and not thinking about the gold medal. There is a long way [to go], so we need to think about our first game and then take each day as it comes.”
As one of only a handful of teams to beat the Netherlands in recent years, does that give you additional confidence?
Agustina Gorzelany: “I don’t know. We are a good team, just like the Netherlands are. I think that if, one day, we are going to play them then it is going to be a difficult match. But I think we have a lot of chances to beat them. We have been preparing for this thing since 2019, so it has been a very long road. But I think we are going to do very well.”
It would be amazing if Las Leonas can follow in the footsteps of Los Leones, who won gold at Rio 2016. Does that inspire you?
Agustina Gorzelany: “It is very difficult to imitate them, because they had a really incredible ending – they got their gold medal. Of course, we are going to fight for that to happen to us, and it is very difficult. But yes, it is really inspiring. In my opinion, and for me, it gives me more energy. It makes me think that we are a little bit nearer to that ending. But as I already said, it is step by step, match by match.”
The hockey competitions at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will take place from Saturday 24 July to Friday 6 August 2021. Both the men’s and women’s competitions feature 12 teams, split into two pools of six ahead of quarter-finals, semi-finals and medal matches. For more information about the hockey competitions at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, visit .
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