Despite artificial surface handicap, Guyana’s male and females qualify for 2018 CAC Games

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After much success by the Guyana Men’s National Hockey teams of the 1980s and 1990s, it was the Women’s turn to shine at the turn of the New Millennium. A revival drive saw the women catapult from Regional underdogs to being placed among the top 8 teams of a 30 team Region in 2012.  This ascent also gave the Guyana ladies the accolade of being the biggest global mover for this period by jumping 20 spots in the global rankings from #58 to #38 in the world.

Meanwhile, the men who had not been in competition due to lack of funding, managed to secure the resources to participate once again internationally in 2014 and again in 2016. In the Pan American Indoor Championships in Uruguay in 2014, the Guyana men managed to secure its first ever bronze medal for Indoor Hockey, signalling an impressive return to the international game.

That result was followed by two stellar performances in the outdoor game, where they narrowly missed a medal in the Pan Am Challenge in Peru and finished 7th in the Junior Pan Am Championships in Toronto.

Leading into 2017, both men and women had fallen in their regional ranking as a result of not being able to compete regularly at the international level. This meant both teams would need to attend the Central American & Caribbean Games qualifiers in Kingston Jamaica in November, this year.

This outdoor task, however, would be following closely on the heels of the Indoor Pan American Cup where Guyana would play host nation to international hockey for the first time in over 25 years.

With Guyana being one of the few remaining nations in the Pan American Region without an Artificial Pitch on which outdoor international matches are played, the indoor version of the game is the only way the team can enjoy the opportunity to perform for a home crowd.

The Guyana men would enter this year’s competition as the defending bronze medalists, while the women made their international debut in Indoor Hockey.

While the indoor tournament was a huge success from an organisational standpoint, the Guyana teams fell short of the medals despite putting in good performances throughout the competition.

The men lost out on retaining their bronze medal position by losing to Canada in the third-place playoff, while the women could only manage 6th place in their first international indoor hockey showing. Not a moment could be wasted after the Indoor Pan Am Cup as both male and female teams were whisked off to Kingston, Jamaica where much was at stake in the form of a CAC Games berth in Baranquilla, Colombia in July 2018.

The CAC Qualifier would determine the final two places in the CAC Games, which would go to the top two finishers in the qualifier.

The Guyana men steamrolled their opposition in the first three games of competition beating Puerto Rico, Panama and Guatemala by handy margins to secure a record of 15 goals scored with only one conceded.

Their final pool match against Jamaica was simply a ‘dress-rehearsal’ for the final as, by that time, both teams had qualified for the final based on their progression in the tournament. Despite a strong performance, Guyana lost to Jamaica by a narrow 2-3 margin and would hope to exact their revenge in the final the very next day.

Alas, fate would deal a tough blow to the Guyanese as power difficulties with the stadium lights caused the final to be abandoned after a scoreless twenty minutes of play.

By virtue of the pool round results, where Guyana had lost to Jamaica by one goal, the gold medal was awarded to Jamaica and the silver to Guyana with both teams qualifying for the CAC games.

Despite having to settle for second, Guyana dominated the individual awards with 21-year-old Aroydy Branford securing the top goal-scorer and Player of the Tournament awards and with Medroy Scotland receiving the Best Goalkeeper Award.

In Scotland’s case, this was a repeat of the Indoor Pan American Cup, where he was also adjudged the Best Goalkeeper.

After playing unbeaten in the pool round of the ladies competition, Guyana and Jamaica would match their male counterparts by reaching the final of the qualifier and securing the final two spots in the CAC games.

The Guyanese and Jamaican ladies had battled to a 0-0 stalemate when they met in the pool round and the teams had both scored 12 unanswered goals against the rest of the competition.

While both teams had chances during an entertaining final, the Guyanese side seemed more comfortable than they did in the earlier tie and managed to gain the upper hand in possession during the final two-thirds of the match.  Their efforts were finally rewarded when striker, Latacia Chung, managed a rebound shot off a penalty corner strike in the 48th minute to put Guyana ahead for the first time. The single goal was enough to secure the victory for Guyana, leaving a stunned home crowd consoling themselves that their team had also secured a spot at the CAC games.

The performance of the Guyanese teams in Jamaica showed that the quality of hockey in Guyana is still on par or above most in the region despite the handicap of not having an artificial surface on which to train and compete.

The teams now face the arduous task of trying to prepare on grass for what is likely to be heightened competition at the games where regional powerhouses, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico will be present.

Article Categories:
Columns · Issue 28 · Publication · Sports

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