Atlanta '96: Britain need to end goal famine

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Goals are an essential commodity in any Olympic challenge and they have been in scarce supply for both British teams in their final preparations against the more serious challengers for a gold medal.

Both team coaches have expressed their disappointments and frustrations at their problems in that area and have tried desperate last-minute efforts to address the problem.

Jon Copp, the recently appointed replacement for David Whitaker, resorted to showing videos of Sean Kerly's scoring attributes and then pushing Russell Garcia, the only surviving member of the squad that won the gold medal in Seoul, forward - both without immediate success.

Both teams go to Atlanta with the benefit of more "professional" preparation than any previous squads. The men have played 39 internationals since they started their build-up last November and have spent endless weeks at Bisham Abbey.

The unfortunate departure of Whitaker, just eight weeks before the Games, has clearly been detrimental to prospects. It might have been easier to face had it happened several months ago when the original problems were clearly brewing. The change-over has not helped, but the unprecedented size of the programme over the eight months and the loss of form of Calum Giles, the specialist penalty-corner striker, are equally significant.

South Korea are the men's first opponents. Not too much is known of them, although they won the Six Nations' Tournament in Ipoh in which Britain finished fourth.

Points against South Korea and the Dutch, who seem to be running into form, in the second game, seem essential if Britain are to mount a challenge for a place in the semi-finals. Malaysia and South Africa, who follow, will be no walkovers but should provide full points. Britain's final pool game is against Australia, who are strong favourites for a place in the semi-finals.

The women's eight-nation round-robin format, with play-offs for the medal places, will provide a stern test of fitness and, most of all, consistency.

Again, South Korea and the Dutch provide Britain's first opponents in a competition where each team is very capable of taking points off each other. To equal or better their bronze medal in Barcelona would be a real achievement for Britain.

BRITISH SQUADS: Men: J Laslett (capt), P McGuire (both Teddington), R Thompson, S Hazlitt (both Hounslow), C Giles (Havant), Soma Singh, J Shaw (both Southgate), C Mayer, Kalbir Takher (both Cannock), S Mason, J Wyatt (both Reading), D Luckes (East Grinstead), J Halls, N Thompson (both Old Loughtonians), D Hall (Guildford), R Garcia (Polo Barcelona).

Women: J Atkins (Bradford Swithenbank, capt), A Bennett, M Nicholls, K Brown (all Slough), J Sixsmith, H Rose, M Davies (all Sutton Canada Life), T Cullen, C Cook (both Hightown), T Miller (Clifton), J Mould, K Johnson (both Balsam Leicester), J Thompson (Ipswich), R Simpson (Edinburgh), P Robertson, S Fraser (both Bonagrass Grove).