Field Hockey at the Olympics
2 min read
Field hockey is still a relatively recent sport in terms of the Olympics: it was first played as men’s only during the 1908 games, and wasn’t introduced for women until 1980. Despite the US team notoriously struggling to succeed – the last time the women’s team placed was in 1984 when they won bronze – the current Team USA are confident that this year is the year America can win big in hockey. Traditionally, while field hockey has slowly grown in popularity across the whole of the US, it is played far more down the East Coast. The University of North Carolina has seen several hockey stars graduate, and this month in Rio, seven former Tar Heels are on the Team USA roster, including goalkeeper Jackie Briggs, who helped the team win gold at the 2011 Pan Am Games, and two time Olympic athlete Katelyn Falgowski, who was named ACC Freshman of the Year during her time at North Carolina. The appeal of North Carolina to hockey players could be explained by their famous alumni. Cindy Werley, a member of Team USA who competed in Atlanta during the 1996 Games, where they defeated South Korea and Spain to finish fifth, had also donned the blue and white jersey. Kate “Tiki” Barber, a hockey legend who acted as captain in 2008, leading the US hockey team to qualify for their first Olympic games in over a decade, was also a Tar Heel, graduating in 1998 with a degree in physical education. However, head coach Karen Shelton could also have something to do with the Olympic aspirations of her players. Shelton was a member of the US team during the 1984 Olympic Games in LA, when the team won bronze and walked away with the last medal the US has one in hockey for 32 years. However, North Carolina are not the only ones who will be cheering on several alumni as they take to the pitch. Three members of the US women’s hockey team are University of Maryland graduates, and Stefanie Fee, a defender who’s heading to Rio, is the assistant coach over at College Park. In fact, UM’s hockey program have always enjoyed Olympic success: between the 1996 and the 2008 games, five hockey players have been former Terrapins.