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Hockey girls chase Olympics dream in Oz

HIGH HOPES: Mel Clewlow
HIGH HOPES: Mel Clewlow

FOUR Canterbury Hockey Club players will spend the next month in Australia as they set about the serious business of trying to get Great Britain’s women through to the next Olympics.

Mel Clewlow, Anna Bennett Frances Houslop and new recruit Hilary Rose will all play in the BDO Champions Trophy, the latest stepping stone for the team on the road they hope will lead to Athens 2004.

The Champions Trophy runs from November 29 to December 7, and is contested by the top six countries from the 2002 World Cup in Perth, including the winners of that tournament Argentina, and reigning Olympic champions Australia.

GB revert to England for the tournament and were fifth in last year’s competition. They will be looking for a similar finish at the Olympic Park Hockey Centre, Sydney.

The world’s leading four teams, Argentina, Australia, Holland and China - the trophy holders - have already qualified for Athens.

But England, who could only finish fourth in the recent European Nations Cup, still have to go through a final Olympic qualifying tournament in New Zealand next March.

By finishing above Korea, the other team in the Champions Trophy, GB could earn themselves a more favourable group in New Zealand.

A top five finish will also quarantee their participation in next year’s Champions Trophy so there is plenty of incentive as Clewlow, 27, explained: “We’ve beaten all the teams we’re playing in Australia but there’s a big difference playing these sides in a friendlies and in the environment of a big competiton like this.”

The Canterbury quartet flew out with the rest of the squad on Sunday. They return home just in time for Christmas and have a short break before resuming preparations for the Olympic qualifying tournament in New Zealand which runs from March 19-28.

The nine teams joining Great Britain in Manukau City, Auckland, are Germany, Ireland, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, the Ukraine and the USA.

The top four will qualify automatically for Athens, with a possible fifth place being made available if host nation Greece do not qualify.

They will have to play the 10th ranked country in a three-match play-off before the main qualifying event gets under way.

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