The U.S. men’s field hockey team scheduled to compete in an Olympic qualification tournament in New Delhi, India, next month pulled out of the event Tuesday because of a lack of player commitments, ending hopes that the United States would qualify its first Olympic men’s field hockey team since the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta — when the host country automatically got a bid.
The U.S. men were selected to attend the Feb. 18-26 event, the first of three Olympic qualifiers, after finishing fifth at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, last summer. But employment conflicts, injuries and player retirements gutted the roster.
“The decision has been made strategically with the very best outcome for our program in mind,” Terry Walsh, USA Field Hockey’s Technical Director of High Performance, said in a statement. “Unavailability of many of the senior players has left the Men’s program in a position where our best assembled team has a performance potential well below that required to be competitive in a tournament of this caliber.”
The United States men have played in just six Olympic field hockey tournaments, winning only one medal — a silver — back in 1932 when the Games were held in Los Angeles. At the ’96 Games, the team finished 0-5.
USA Field Hockey officials said they decided not to send a team of junior athletes because of the high-caliber of competition in the qualifying event.
“Much work and effort has taken place in recent years to develop a quality junior program,” USA Field Hockey Executive Director Steve Locke said in the statement. “I believe that in attending the tournament that will feature the world’s top ranked teams will only hinder the confidence and development of our junior men.”
The focus of the Senior Men’s program has now shifted to the FIH World League, set to make its debut in late 2012, according to USA Field Hockey. Participation in the World League is essential for future qualification prospects.
“The Board of Directors is in full support of the decision made to withdraw the team from the Olympic Qualifying Tournament,” said Pam Stuper, Chair, USA Field Hockey Board. “The decision was made with the best interest in mind of the athletes and long-term development of the Men’s National Team program.”