Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: Spotlight on New Zealand

As part of our continuing build-up to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, today we cast New Zealand into the spotlight, a nation whose men’s and women’s teams will be fighting for the medals in Japan. 

The Black Sticks women – lead by head coach Graham Shaw, the man who guided Ireland women to World Cup silver in 2018 – have been outstanding performers over the last decade, regularly getting themselves in contention for podium finishes. Fourth place finishes at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games split by a fifth-place finish at the 2014 Hockey World Cup has proven something of a frustration, but their gold medal success at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games showed that they are more than capable of winning titles. The team once again found themselves sitting top of the podium in 2019, defeating host nation Australia at the Oceania Cup to guarantee their participation in Tokyo 2020.

Coached by former Black Sticks midfielder Darren Smith, New Zealand men – who shocked the world by becoming Olympic champions at Montreal 1976, the first Games to be played on a synthetic field – are renowned for their tireless team work ethic but are also blessed with some exceptional individuals. Stephen Jenness and Hugo Inglis are all wonderful attacking talents, while veteran defender Shea McAleese and penalty corner expert Kane Russell are consistently excellent performers. New Zealand reached Tokyo with two victories over Korea in the 2019 FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers, winning 3-2 and 3-0 in Stratford.

Ahead of their respective Olympic campaigns, we caught up with Black Sticks captains Stacey Michelsen and Blair Tarrant to get their thoughts about this hugely important competition. This interview was recorded prior to the confirmation of the recently concluded test series between New Zealand and Australia, and also the upcoming FIH Hockey Pro League matches, also against Australia, which take place later this month.  

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