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London 2012 field hockey: The underdog and the beauty queens

August 01, 2012|By Amy Hubbard
  • Maarte Paumen, on the top-ranked Netherlands women's field hockey team, is a star of the sport - "a fierce competitor."
Maarte Paumen, on the top-ranked Netherlands women's field hockey… (Koen Suyk/ European Pressphoto…)

As U.S. women's field hockey team members gear up for their next Summer Olympics match, they've got momentum (and a Google Doodle) on their side.

Ranked No. 10, the U.S. team was seen as an underdog, but it also appears capable of competing with the very best in the world.

"Coach [Lee] Bodimeade said in a press conference following the match that Argentina drives us to our best performances," said Ashley Meunier, communications manager for USA Field Hockey, after the team's defeat of Argentina at the London Games.

The U.S. has had a couple of jaw-dropping performances against Argentina. In the Pan American Games last year, the team beat Argentina to earn its Olympic spot; then came the 1-0 victory over the second-ranked Argentines on Tuesday.

Meunier, in London for the Olympics, talked Wednesday with the Los Angeles Times by email, pointing out some of the stars of the sport as well as the reigning heavyweight at this year's Olympics.

The Netherlands is apparently the country to beat. Its team has gotten a lot of recent attention - not for its athleticism, but for its athletes' Dutch good looks.

A Twitter stream is devoted to paeans to the team's beauty. "All the athletes are models," claimed one tweeter. Said another: "brb moving to the Netherlands to get a job working for their women's field hockey team."

Turns out, the Dutch team also can play field hockey.

"Holland is ranked No. 1 in the world," Meunier said. "They have played in the last seven Olympic Games and have two golds, one silver and three bronze medals. They are here as reigning champions."

Among Dutch players is Maarte Paumen. She's a star of the sport, Meunier said, named 2011 FIH player of the year - "a fierce competitor on the international scene."

On the U.S. side, there's Katelyn Falgowski, who also was recognized by the international hockey organization. The FIH named her a World All Star, and she was nominated for its 2011 Young Player of the Year Award, which recognizes top athletes in the world younger than 23. 

On Tuesday night, Meunier said, Falgowski played a crucial role. She helped shut down another mega-star of the sport, Luciana Aymar, whom Meunier said was recognized worldwide as one of the best women's field hockey players in history.

The U.S. might eventually meet up with the Netherlands on its way to the top at the London Olympics.

Next up: On Thursday, the U.S. takes on Australia.


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