HOCKEY: Nine of the country’s best young hockey players have been selected to compete at the second summer Youth Olympic Games, taking place in Nanjing, China this August.
The aspiring Olympians are the only male team to represent Australia in Nanjing, and will compete in a fast and furious format of the sport called Hockey5s - a complementary version of the game with simplified rules and more excitement for the fans.
“We all enjoy the five a side concept,” Australian Youth Hockey Coach David Guest said.
“It’s very tactical, basically man-on-man in a small space, testing the players both physically and mentally.”
Australia gained selection to compete at the Youth Olympics after a solid performance at the qualification event in Vanuatu in March.
“The team on a whole learnt a lot throughout the tournament. We tried a number of different formations and structures, which was a good learning tool leading into Nanjing,” Guest said.
The team is comprised of athletes who competed in Vanuatu as well as players from the U18 National Championships held in April.
Nathanael Stewart and Alec Rasmussen were two of the outstanding talents from the National Championships to be chosen for the Youth Team.
“I was very happy with my achievements and performances at the National Championships and I believe that this form is a good foundation going into the Youth Olympic Games,” Stewart said.
Stewart, 18, has played representative hockey since 2006 and has never looked back especially after playing in Europe a couple of years ago with the Australian Schoolboys team.
“After the trip to Europe I made the decision that I wanted to pursue my dream of competing at the Olympics and representing my country,” the Sydneysider said.
Rasmussen, born in Townsville but now a resident of Perth, has won numerous accolades. Apart from being a great talent, the 17-year-old plays alongside Olympians Matt Ghodes, Fergus Kavanagh and Tim Deavin for the Perth based club Hale.
Rasmussen doesn’t just play with Olympians; David Guest who is also an Olympian, coaches the Perth youngster and will also be his coach in Nanjing.
“Guesty is a great mentor and inspiration to me and it is definitely helpful to have worked with him in the past as it makes it easier to turn up for that first training, knowing the work rate and effort he expects at every training and the quality he is looking for,” Rasmussen said.
Both teenagers are extremely honoured to be part of the Australian Youth Olympic Team. They will defend the gold medal Australia won at the last Youth Olympic Games in 2010 when hockey was contested in its traditional format.
“The ambition of making the Australian Youth Olympic Team stemmed from the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore and wanting to be able to share the same feelings of representing my country at an Olympics,” Stewart said.
Hockey5s will take place at the Youth Olympic Sports Park Hockey Stadium from 17 to 27 August.
Australia is represented in the male only event and the team will compete against nine other nations.
To follow, support and find out more information about the Australian Youth Olympic Team, visit the dedicated team website nanjing2014.olympics.com.au. For the latest social media news, follow @AUSOlympicTeam on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Google+.
2014 Australian Youth Olympic Team - Hockey Section: