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Dutch try to forget weight of two golds
Jane Barrett |
August 12, 2004 22:04 IST
After back-to-back golds, the Dutch men charge into the Olympic hockey tournament as one of the favourites but are trying not to let the weight of expectation get to them.
If the Dutch take the title again, they will be the first team to complete a hat-trick since the days when India dominated hockey in the mid-20th century.
Much as the players want to get their names on that sort of record board, the squad knows there is a lot of work to do.
"The other two golds have nothing to do with this Olympics," coach Terry Walsh said on Thursday, three days before the Dutch play India in their opening match.
"We have to look after things we can control and do it in the best way we can. We look after the process rather than the outcome -- how to play each game, not the gold medal," the former Australia player added.
Only six of the 16 Dutch players in Athens have played in an Olympics and only four were members of the winning teams both in Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.
"We have a lot of very new guys who are very eager to reach the same goal. But we have to start the Games as a new Olympics and see what happens," said double gold medallist Erik Jazet, tipping the German and Spanish as tough title contenders.
For their part, the youngsters are determined not to let the Dutch down and are desperate for a taste of victory themselves.
"Some of our guys have left a legacy behind and we want to meet their level," said Ronald Brouwer, 25.
"I share a house with (double gold medallist) Guus Vogels so I've heard a lot about the Olympics and am so pleased to be here, pumped to play. I hope to get a medal and I hope it's gold," he added.
The Dutch are also strong contenders in the women's hockey tournament, having beaten defending champions Australia and top-ranked Argentina in a warm-up tournament earlier this month.
"That gave us confidence but it wasn't full-on, so it doesn't mean too much. For now, we are only thinking about our first game against South Africa on Saturday," said women's coach Marc Lammers.
"Even the spying has stopped. It's a sort of a gentleman's agreement. For the last two weeks, we haven't videoed (Australia and Argentina) and I haven't seen people watching us. It a matter of respect, I suppose," he added.
Lammers echoed others in predicting that China and Korea could be serious contenders too.
"They are becoming a force, they are strong and the heat here will suit them," he said.
(Additional reporting by Tony Lawrence)