Canadian women's field hockey team looks to take step towards 2020 Olympics

The Canadian women's field hockey team raised the money to finance its trip to Valencia, Spain, for the FIH Hockey Series Finals. Now it hopes to extend its run with a top-two finish at the eight-country tournament.

That will lead to a playoff later this year, almost certainly in hostile territory, with Olympic qualification on the line.

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Canada's women have sat out the last six Olympics, last competing in 1992 when they finished seventh in Barcelona. They are trying to get back there with little funding or support.

Canada, ranked 21st in the world, is in Pool A at the FIH Hockey Series with No. 7 Spain, No. 20 Belarus and No. 42 Namibia. Pool B is made up of No. 15 South Africa, No. 17 Italy, No. 27 Wales and No. 28 Thailand.

Canada opens Wednesday against host Spain before facing Namibia on Friday and Belarus on Saturday.

The pool winners get a bye to the semifinals while the second- and third-place finishers cross-over to decide the other two semifinalists.

"We expect to finish first or second in our pool," said Canada coach Giles Bonnet.

The winner of the Pan American Games, which open in July 26 in Lima, Peru, will also head to the 2020 Tokyo Games. But that competition features No. 4 Argentina, the 12th-ranked Americans and No. 16 Chile.

The loss of Own The Podium funding plus Field Hockey Canada's financial problems has meant that the Canadian women has turn to a crowdfunding campaign to get to Spain. The fundraising produced some $81,000.

A private donor paid for the women's week-long camp in Victoria ahead of the Spain tournament.

Bonnet, a South African native who has led the team to a string of impressive results since taking over in early 2018, has been handed his notice because Field Hockey Canada can't afford him. Bonnet's staff position will end after the Pan Am Games. Field Hockey Canada says it is trying to work out a way to retain him on a contract status.

Bonnet says he is not thinking about the off-the-field issues.

"I can't afford to spend time on anything else at this stage," he said in an interview.

The women have essentially hived themselves off from their governing body.

Following a strategy Bonnet had used with other national teams he has coached, the Canadian women moved to Belgium last September to join club teams there. It gave them access to elite coaches and trainers while allowing the Amsterdam-based Bonnet to work with them regularly.

"We've prepared as well as we can," said Bonnet. "All credit to the players. They've been phenomenal. They've made huge sacrifices and invested in this process."

The Canadian women lost their Own The Podium funding for 2019-20 after receiving $200,000 in 2017-2018 and $75,000 in 2018-2019.

They had received $2,150,000 in the Rio quadrennial when they were centralized in Vancouver.

The 10th-ranked men have gone the other way. After collecting just $300,000 in the Rio quadrennial, they have received $1,470,000 ahead of Tokyo ($500,000 in 2017-2018, $490,000 in 2018-2019 and $480,000 in 2019-20).

The Canadian men are heading to their own playoff after winning the FIH Series Finals in May with a 3-2 victory over host Malaysia, ranked 13th. They can also qualify via the Pan American Games although Olympic champion Argentina, currently ranked fourth, stands in their way.

Own The Podium money helped pay for the men's trip to Malaysia.

The men will host their playoff qualifier, likely against a team ranked 14th through 16th, at their West Vancouver training base.

Canada Roster (with number of caps)

Amanda Woodcroft (110); Anna Mollenhauer (4); Brienne Stairs (158), Dani Hennig (183), Elise Wong (8), Hannah Haughn (174), Holly Stewart (87), Kaitlyn Williams (132), Karli Johansen (128), Kate Wright (capt., 211), Lauren Logush (44), Maddie Secco (122), Natalie Sourisseau (136), Nikki Woodcroft (55), Rachel Donohoe (71), Sara McManus (170), Shanlee Johnston (110), Steph Norlander (109).

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